Twelve

You pulsed in forehead lump from tree smack
after ecstatic dash from DB, my first crush.

You surged while LK from Hungary 
then HG in recovery stayed in our attic.

Where were You, Love, when we moved back to 
Michigan once more during Christmas break?

You tunneled deep with indelible heart words
through my reading eyes, poet ears, piano fingers.

You blessed our going by Mrs. L's stitching our names
on corduroy peanut pillows, mine red, N's blue, J's green.

And blessed our coming with fridge and cupboard 
full of groceries from Dad's sponsoring church.

Eleven

Mom was pregnant when I was eleven.
Nancy cuddled her doll baby in eager expectation.
The still-birth hit her hard she tells me now.
But I was carefree, dashing across the street 
to Doreen's house to watch Mickey Mouse Club
or pre-occupied on the sidewalk for hours
keeping the hula hoop whirling on my waist.
There were memorable times with Mom:
May walks in Lilac Park; summer picnics and camping;
singing in the car on the way home.
Best of all were our Skip-a-Cross games
after the younger kids were in bed.
Yet most times I was content alone or with
my friend Alice whose tree we climbed.

Ten

Helen wrote poignant letters raising funds
for four-year old blind orphan boy at school.

Laura spent the summer caring for her
baby sister and bringing in the cows.

Mary did chores, walked to school, studied hard,
walked home, did more chores, taught siblings each night.

Ida knelt in church, thinking less of God
than how her red ribbons and white coat looked.

Zora beamed with joy reading all the books
the women from Minnesota sent her.

Ann was mad at first when Dad's mission brought 
them to New York and Mom took her savings.

Kathy realized her parents welcomed all,
unlike other whites on Indian land.

Cindy ran for police to keep Dad from
killing Mom, kept her own abuse secret.

Daisy spent summer on Long Island with
parents, sister, and writer grandmother.

Malala prayed "Bless us and protect us.
No, not just Pakistan. Bless all the world."

Nine

We were going places, meeting people.
From Grandma's house I was allowed to walk
to Cherry St. Playground, taking Billy.
But when I wanted to leave he didn't 
so I said "We can go a different way"
and finally he agreed. But I realized 
after a tiring detour we were lost.
A kind lady drove us to Sigsbee St.

Excited to travel by herself, Jean
flew West, spent Easter Break with grandparents 
at the mission house in New Mexico.
Got her hair braided, admired Zuni clothes
and was awed by native ceremonies.
Why did Grandpa and Grandma frown on them?

Twenty years later Jean's son spent summer
weeks in Greenbelt with Grandma Marjorie 
who wrote: Nine-year old had fun at the pool,
more fun after the high school dudes showed up--
trying new moves, one-hand or no-hand dives;
racing those two, loaning them his goggles.
All fun, no talk till leaving, one asked "What's 
your name?" "Judah" "Good name." Three smiles.

Eight

In the middle of third grade
we moved out of Michigan again
though we'd always be back for visits.
I'd never forget Mom's parents'
Sigsbee St. house with narrow driveway
between two tall trees and park-like yard
with cherry tree I may have climbed once.
Inside was the fireplace and big chair
where Grandpa told made-up stories
featuring a mischievous crow.

Neighbors fences bordered our yard
in Rochester: Taylor's on the right
who had the twins Dean and Dale, Billy's age;
flower garden people on the left
and swimming pool in the yard behind.
Near that back fence I recall losing 
track of time, building sand towns.

Mid-childhood school and church memories blur.
One home highlight was the radio
show "Greatest Story Ever Told:
Greatest Life Ever Lived" starring Jesus
which we heard on Sundays while eating
melted cheese or brown sugar toast
from trays in the living room.

Eight-year olds I identified with
in books, among family and at church
were more often boys than girls.
Once I told Nancy I was a boy--
was I explaining my low voice
or lack of interest in dolls?
Forgive me, sisters, daughters, nieces,
for slighting your eight-year old passions.
Thanks Mom for labeling photos 
reviving third grade eyes and minds.

Seven

The Marjorie I was named after died
of scarlet fever before
reaching her seventh birthday.
She was Mommy's older sister.
My middle name Anne came from Anthony,
Dad's brother who died of a ruptured spleen
at age seven after "a mean boy pushed 
him into an excavation".

The Marjorie I was at seven 
may have absorbed these stories.
Atop the hill behind our house 
I was appalled to find a gravel pit.
Cousins Kenny and Bon had mumps
so couldn't come to Grandma Ribbens'
for cake and ice cream. But life was good.

Our grandmas kept us well dressed;
Auntie Ruth was our fairy godmother.
I knew the way to school and church,
didn't miss what we didn't have--
neighbors, television, pets.
The Bobbsey Twins were my ideal family.
Mom closed my baby book that year
with "Likes school" and Mrs. Kramer gave me
A's in Bible, Reading, Spelling and 
Arithmetic; B's in Penmanship, Art,
"Personal and Social Traits" and Conduct.

God, we mourn the fears, hurts, judgments passed on
to kids and grandkids. Give us more chances 
to walk or read with seven-year olds.

Six

Headline revives old daydreams:
Six-year Old Gives Up Birthday
Party and Gifts To Feed Homeless.

We imagine a world without nightmares
where all sleep like our kids did at age six
and wake up with bright ideas
that electrify advocates.

Sunday Schoolers sing "Red and yellow,
black and white, they are precious in His sight".
Holy Love, unscreen our vision;
give us first-grade eyes of raw compassion
like mine seeing photos and praying 
earnestly for hungry, hurting children.

Whether or not we knelt bedside
with a parent or child back then,
we kneel today in child pose, resting 
guilt-free, trusting You, Peace Prince.


Five

The day I turned five we drove a long way
back to the state where I and my sister 
were born when we lived with gram and grampa.
But this time we got our own red brick house
cuz now we had Billy, and Mommy was
growing another baby already.

It must have seemed strange to leave my first school 
in late October. I can't remember 
either kindergarten. Progress reports 
from both teachers cheer me still: "plays well with
others" ... "makes friends of the lasting type though
not one to make a lot of friends quickly."

Old photos taken in sunlight restore
the simple happiness I knew outside--
seeing, being seen, posing with shy smile.
Of course I never sucked my thumb outside.
Was excited, running to greet cousins;
curious, eager to climb the hill out back.

Many hills, valleys, friends and years later 
my kindergarten heart shines with grateful 
praise to the Divine Parent, Creator,
the One I sensed in wind, water and trees,
Love Power who grew me as a daughter,
sister, student, teacher, mom, now grama.

I'm grateful this Great Love grew Aunt Nancy
to be my son's kindergarten teacher.
I treasure Duffy's five-year old wisdom:
"Maybe God will pull the rain strings back up."
And another day when asked "Where's God?"
"God's up in the clouds singing with the birds."

Four

Four-year old faces from years past
spring to mind on Greenbelt walkways:

Lily in low-branching tree perch
delaying nursery school day-start;

Lukas watching caterpillar 
slowly, safely cross service road;

Max building playground teepee or
volleyball sand court road system.

Streamside, lakeside, garden, forest--
all-weather childcare renews me.

Three

Three-year olds in Greenbelt
and previous homes
taught me how to be a friend.

1. Delight in differences:
   "Hey Mom, Rhonda's blue, and I'm red!"
   Brother and sister--friends for life.

2. Declare your devotion:
   "You're my best friend, grama."
   "I love you, Judah."

3. Go on walks together:
   "Look, a butterfly!"
   Kindred spirits bond outdoors.