Every summer day after waking and eating whatever I could find in the empty house, I’d run over to Cheryl’s house and we’d use the huge, empty flower pot on her front stoop and fill it with water, dirt, rock, and grass. Then we’d start collecting ants and roly poly bugs and whatever else we could capture, and dump them in. I’d find a huge stick to stir the Ant Soup and we’d pretend to be making the world’s most precious delicacy—instead of the brown sludge it was. We did this a lot during the summer months when Ma was out working.
Since nobody was allowed at my house (we didn’t have electricity or much food most days anyway), I’d always end up at Cheryl’s or Jenny’s house (they lived across the street from one another) a couple blocks away. And if we weren’t making Ant Soup, we were always doing something that made us laugh.
Life was good when we were 9.
Cheryl or Jenny would usually sneak me some food, and I’d hang out with the Ant Soup or riding my bike through the alleys until they were allowed back outside to play. Then we’d ride bikes, serve the Ant Soup, play with Barbies, try acting like we didn’t want to play with the boys in town, etc until the street lights came on, telling us it was time to get home.
Cheryl and Jenny were the girls who taught me about the game where you couldn’t step on a crack in the sidewalk or you’d break your mother’s back. They’d walk the sidewalk, jumping here and there trying so hard to avoid stepping on a crack. I played along for the most part, but not as hard as they did. And when it was time to go home, when I was alone, I’d jump down the sidewalk when I wasn’t riding my bike. I’d jump so hard onto the cracks.
If Ma’s back broke, maybe she’d finally be home.