Chapter 1

In the fall of 1969 we found ourselves living in our grandparents' home. They had 4 bedrooms, a couple of full bathrooms, and a wondrous basement. I say that with a chuckle as how many young boys, or even men who want to act like young boys, have a full train diorama taking up half of their basement? They did, and we fell in love with model trains before we started our new school year.

This would be my fourth school and I was still 10 years old!

Another memory visit has just taken place. I know I only gave information on three schools so far. There were actually two schools I attended in Springfield, Virginia. Before we could get into St. Bernadette's we attended a public school. I had blocked it out as I now recall a horrible incident there.

I mentioned having a flurry of upper respiratory infections that winter. And one of them caused me to get quite ill in that public school.

Embarrassment? How many other people can recall their sudden loss of lunch on top of their desk? Only to have all the kids in the general vicinity scrambling to move themselves, and their desks, away from that kind of nasty thing. Well, it happened to me. And then poor mom had to come collect me at school and rescue me from the glares and comments of those oh, so lovely children.

I can even now recall the teacher asking me why I couldn't ask to go the the lavatory? It just hit me so suddenly that I couldn't even think of making it to the trash can in her room. I know I apologized. What else could I do?

Life moved on. I thankfully was able to get into St. B's and never had to visit that "other" school again. Thank you so much. Someone was looking over me!

Anyway, back to the grandparents. We settled into a routine. Met and made friends in the neighborhood. Ran around playing outside until the sun would go down.

There was a lot of kick-the-can and hide and seek.

We created our own game of "best-dying-moments."

We would flip, odds and evens, and the winner would be the "enemy". This person would then tell the others, as their turn came up, what he was going to use to make them die.

Sorry, I had a laughing out loud moment. Heck we were kids and the Vietnam war was going on. We were sometimes in the room when the news was on.

So, say Ken was up next. The 'enemy' would tell him he was using a grenade. Ken would then start moving in on the 'enemy' and then an explosion would go off. Ken would flail his arms and try to do his "best dying moment." Next up would be Bill. The 'enemy' would shoot him with a machine gun. Bill would do his best "my body is being riddled with bullets" routine. And then the others would have their turns.

The "enemy" would then select the winner of that round. That person would then become the "enemy" and get to do the judging. We spent many an afternoon getting thoroughly sweaty and dirty with all of this exercise!

As the sun went down, our respective families would call us in to clean up, and get ready for bed.

I know I died a lot that year playing our game. And I was really good at those acrobatics of reacting to a grenade going off. Even if it was all make believe. Kids being kids and playing at war and not letting anything bother us at all.

I think at one point we had about ten children, boys and girls, who would take part in most of the neighborhood games during that fall of 1969.

We had a lot of fun with those trains also. We had an allowance, so we started buying Roco Minitanks at the local hobby store. I remember that most of them were ninety nine cents. The newer models were a dollar twenty nine.

Many an hour setting up 'battles' and having the trains come in, in the nick of time, to rescue any survivors.

My mind just sort of froze up on me just now. I had so many memories trying to have their voices heard that I couldn't react to it at all.

One, the young girl across the street, my age and in the same class at school. Two, School itself, recalling there wasn't much challenge. I remember everything (except sentence structure!) came so easily to me and I was bored most of the time. Three thru six are heat, smoking, grandad, and trees. I'll do my best to capture each as I go through this part. Phew.

And still I had a darkness in my soul. I know it was hiding inside. I know it was not making any attempts to come out and face the world.

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