me, the kid i once was, and an mean old bag named mrs. cleeber

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I’m thinking tonight of this old woman who lived down the street from us back on Baywater Drive.  I was eight when we moved away.

In the time before we moved away, though, I learned how to ride a bike.  I got my sister’s hand-me-down Schwinn.  It was beautiful.  Blue with metallic flake (though I think we called that ‘sparkley” back in the day).  Short enough for me to pretend it was a dirt bike, tall enough for me to pretend it was a ten-speed.   No banana seat, unfortunately, but a great set of handlebars.  Blue and white tassels that swung wild in the breeze.  

It had a basket on the front.  I ripped it off.  Stupid sissy shit.

I went through about three sets of tires each summer.  We couldn’t ride far, so we made plenty of skidmarks.  Ride, ride, ride.  Stop!  Eeeeek.  Ride, ride, ride.  Stop!  Eeeeek.  That got me in a lot of trouble.  It also got me a lot of praise.  Les Harbin and Steve Cooper thought it was so cool that a girl could make a skidmark that long. 

Best of all, there were playing cards attached to the spokes of the rear wheels.  Clipped on solid with clothespins I stole off my mom’s line.

Gorgeous.  Wonderful.

Young kid bliss.

All good memories, right?  

Not so, my friend.  Not so.

Tonight, twenty some years after that bike went to that happy sidewalk in the sky, I saw something.  I was driving through my ‘hood, on my way to pick up a fan from the Fred Meyer.  (All I can say about the fan is this:  I’m a little chilly.)   Anyway, there was a woman in the street, holding a broom, staring at me as I drove past her way-too-manicured yard.

Flashback.  1980.

Mrs. Cleeber.

The old woman was German and meaner than the dickens.  She took great pride in her yard.  Kept her fences tall and kept her pink flamingos nice and clean.  And, more than anything, she made sure her sidewalk was damn clean.

Damn clean.

I can’t remember a summer day when that mu-mu-wearing woman wasn’t out in front of her house, broom in one hand, hose in the other.  She scoured that sidewalk.  And we caught plenty of hell when we rode our bikes on the sidewalk in front of her house.  Her sidewalk.  Hers, not ours.

Skidmarks on her sidewalk got us in loads of trouble.  

I was totally back there tonight.  Back in that seven year old world, back on that Schwinn, back in front of Mrs. Cleeber’s house.  It was summer time.  

And now.  Now it is summer time.  And there’s no sparkley Schwinn and there are no skid marks and there aren’t any playing cards or clothespins.   But there’s a Mrs. Cleeber down the street.  And there’s the heat and there’s the long nights and the way the heat eases up bit by bit after dark.  And I’m not a kid.  I am an adult.

I hate that.

So, as my of saying ‘neener-neener- to adulthood, I did what I had to do.  

Poured myself a glass of lemonade and walked around barefoot.

Take that!


Author: Kim Sharp

more later

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