“6822”

by

Dad and Victoria

 

6822: Part 1 (1956)

Summer storms attacked Texas flatlands vengefully and without warning. This Dallas afternoon—playing alone in our front yard—was no different. I was pursued by five Apache warriors on painted ponies: coyote-yelping, bows and arrows drawn, sun-toughened faces streaked in white, black and blood-red symbols. The sudden tempest attacked from the left flank; it squashed the chase. The gale’s fury and howling obliterated our savage ruckus. An expansive row of 20-foot spired evergreens, just ten yards ahead, bowed submissively to the wind’s assault. On our right flank, hordes of violet-laden cloud goblins charged down from hills of sky. Defeat’s stench  surrounded us. I ran for cover in a cave-like gap defined by two burly evergreen sentries. Sweat stinging my eyes, I dove head first into verdant cover. Landing hard, my hands throbbed from black dirt and twig wounds. Barbaric gusts clawed my shield. Safe at last.

From the left, a new threat; menacing growls rustled the evergreens’ folds. My senses shrieked terror’s warning. A wolf? Bear? I jumped up, my face tangled with branches and foliage, and burst full sprint from the trees. Tears streamed. 

“Mommy…Mommy…”

*

6822: Part 2 (1991)

My daughter Victoria finally stopped laughing. She was sitting next to me in the front seat of the red Toyota rental. Tears welled in her eyes as she caught her breath.

“Dad, you’re such a dork.”

We were visiting my Mom and Dad in the summer of 1991. Victoria was 10 years-old and I was taking her to the house in which I grew up at 6822 Lakehurst. My family lived there from 1954 until 1967 after moving from New York. Dallas was just a big town in the 50’s and 60’s; vast expanses of ranches and farmland bordered the homes slowly appearing as if dots of dripping paint on clean canvas. I had just shared the wind story on the way to my childhood home. It was a perfect sneak preview to more episodes of “The Best of Dad’s Adventures.” I was itching—figuratively, not a nervous rash—to park in front of the post WW2 sand-colored brick ranch home. I had envisioned painting imaginary murals from my treasure chest of childhood memories, pointing to spots in the front and back yard along with sections of the house where I played. I would narrate the time I hid from monsters in the built-in wooden clothes hamper in the hall bathroom, peering out from my cave through the small, hinged wooden flap. We would hold our breaths when I retold the Tarzan saga; staked to the savannah’s floor (the top of the tool shed), bound hands and feet with wet leather strips, painfully outstretched under blazing sun with lazy scorpions snapping pincers to the rhythm of their stinging arousal. We would stand beneath the Mimosa tree in the righthand corner of front yard where, perched for hours in the crooks of its smooth arms, I captained my Man ‘O War in pursuit of gnarly pirates; the tree’s pink-feathered blossoms cannon blasts from the port side. I would milk each word when remembering lying in bed and hiding under my cowboy patterned blanket, shaking as scratchy footsteps grew louder. Closer, closer, closer…the footfalls stopped. Motionless, I waited and waited before slowly maneuvering my head out from beneath my covers. Pitch blackness. A sudden shock of something cold and wet touched my left cheek; the nose of our French Poodle, Can-Can.    

Sharing scenes from my childhood felt appropriate as, like me, Victoria had spent most of her early childhood playing alone. And when it was time for “make-believe,” I was the preferred playmate her favorite characters: Mermaid and merman, Al Gator, Little Mermaid and Sebastian, My Little Pony, Smurfs, and Barbie & Ken. I wanted to reveal glimpses of my own childhood. That spending time doing things alone was OK and not only about feeling the stings

of loneliness from rejection by the “popular” kids. The OK-ness of being an introvert. Where solitude fans flames of imagination and creativity; like her Daddy.

We headed south down Hillcrest Road in North Dallas, speed limit still a snails-paced 35 miles-per-hour. We were only four blocks away. My pulse quickened. I slowed down. At the intersection of Hillcrest and Lakehurst, we would turn right and immediately arrive at 6822; second house on the left from the corner. 

Two blocks.

“OK, our house will be the second house from the corner on our left,” I said.

One.

Excited. “Here it comes, sweetie.”

“OK, Daddy,” she responded. She sounded excited, too.

I turned the steering wheel sharply to the right, braked and prepared for the reveal. The car stopped with an abrupt jerk. My eyes widened like the eyes on a vintage Felix the Cat wall clock.

The second house from the corner on our left. Empty swatch of grass. Mound of dirt. Rubble. The red-bricked ranch house to the right of where our house once stood combined with the corner house formed what appeared as an open-mouthed smirk with a missing tooth. All that remained of the sketch of my childhood were eraser shavings and pencil ghosts scattered across a sheet of withered drawing paper. Deep sigh.

“Where is it, Daddy?”

Disbelief. “It’s gone.” Pause. “I can’t believe it.”

We sat together in the front seat of the car, Victoria’s head resting tenderly on my shoulder, her hand cradling mine.

We pulled away from the curb.

Hordes of dark, violet-laden cloud goblins gathered in the distance.   

***

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