I grew up in what they called the “projects” in Detroit, MI during the race riots of the 1960’s We had little money, mom had rheumatic fever just after birth and dad was in mental institutions for most of his life. We did not know any better then what we had.
We saved our pennies, us kids, for the one day that was special… the day we would all walk to the “penny candy” store, named that way because when you walked inside… there it was every kids dream, a wall of candy as far as you could reach up and in each bin was a mountain of individually wrapped pieces of candy. Each piece costing only a penny.
We were never afraid in and around where we live, tanks would roll by and we would sit on the curb watching… it was all normal to us. We would walk every the four oldest kids. My older brother 11, me at 10, my younger sister at 9 and the youngest sister at around 7 or 8…
It was a hot June day… we each had 12 cents we had saved for this particular day… 12 pennies for 12 pieces of candy each. We walked to the store taking care to watch the road for cars as we crossed. Inside the store we took our time picking and choosing the right set of candy each would get. The owner of the store would always toss in an extra piece for each of us… give us our separate little brown bags.
We walked out of the store pausing just outside of the entrance to peer into our goodie bags and creep up to the edge of the sidewalk. I looked both ways to my right then my left and I started running across the street. I turned around after hearing the sound of a car slamming on its brakes to see this tiny little body flipping through the air like a discarded rag doll. My youngest sister Linda had run into the street chasing after me. A car traveling 50 or so miles an hour crushed every bone in her body, in an instant she was gone… the moment I had seen her flipping in the air she had already died, second before.
For years, many years I had nightmares about a helpless girl standing on a dock as I watched over the railing of a large passenger boat crushing the dock she was on, me leaning over stretching my arm out as far as I could to help, but every night it was the same, her face looking up at me in horror as she was crushed and sucked under the side of this large boat. If I had taken her hand, if I had just waited for all of us to cross at the same time… if…
I had that nightmare every night until my early twenties. It took playing in a band at bars every night for 7 years while holding down a full time job to erase the nightmare from my head. Last year I drew out 3 panels to paint depicting this and after a neighbor saw the drawings and started to cry I removed the canvas and put them in storage. I could not go back there again.
May is Linda’s birthday month and as with all of my family members (there are only two left now, myself and a younger brother) I wanted to write something.
Happy birthday Linda and I am sorry for not taking that tiny little hand of yours in mine as I ran across the street.