My sister Janet and I sat together in the back seat of the Ford as my mother drove home from the supermarket. Janet leaned toward me and whispered conspiratorially in my ear, “Don’t …
My sister Janet and I sat together in the back seat of the Ford as my mother drove home from the supermarket. Janet leaned toward me and whispered conspiratorially in my ear, “Don’t forget the ‘race in space’ as soon as we get home.” I nodded happily, or perhaps it was idiotically, because I knew that if I won the “race in space,” Janet would present me with a “diamond spell.”
I say “idiotically” because the “race in space” was nothing more than maniacally running up the stairs to our bedroom, and a “diamond spell” was not a tangible thing. It was just something I won or earned or received for nothing at all on a whim on Janet’s part.
I would open my hand and she would drop nothing into my small palm and I would be ecstatic. Such is the life of a five-year-old who is a devotee of her eight-year-old sister.
In retrospect, it occurs to me that the phrase “race in space” was one we must have heard over and over on the radio or television news in the early ‘60s in reference to America’s competition with Russia to be the first on the moon. A race in space. I can’t think of where the “diamond spell” originated, but to any child, the imagery of a glittery, shining object is enough to incite excitement.
As my mother pulled into the driveway, I was already grabbing at the car door handle. “Simmer down a minute and wait until the car has stopped,” my mother admonished, looking at me pointedly in the rear-view mirror. A moment later Janet and I were jostling each other at the front door and scrambling up the steps to our bedroom. We simultaneously threw ourselves on our respective beds. “I won, I won!” I announced triumphantly. “No, you didn’t. We reached our beds at the same time,” Janet insisted. I made a sullen face and she relented, as I knew she would. She plopped the ever-elusive diamond spell into my open hand and sat next to me on my bed. “Whattaya wanna do now?” she asked. I looked from her bed, against the wall on the opposite side of the small room, back to mine. “Let’s jump from bed to bed,” I said.
“I don’t know if Mommy will like it,” Janet said.
“She won’t mind,” I insisted, and stood up to slip off my sneakers. Janet did the same and we spent some time jumping across the small space until we got bored.
“Let’s jump backwards,” I suggested. Janet had a momentary pained look on her face as I climbed up on my bed and faced the wall. I looked back over my shoulder to gauge the distance and took off. Naturally, I miscalculated and hit the metal bed frame hard, scraping against it from my lower back to my neck and hitting the floor with a thud.
As I jumped from the floor to dive onto Janet’s bed I began to shriek in pain. Janet was crying as my mother flew into the room screaming, “What happened? Can you get up, Juju? Can you move?”
“She jumped onto the bed after she fell,” Janet offered amid sobs.
My mother sat next to my limp body and stroked my hair as she admonished Janet. “How could you let her do this? You’re older and should’ve known better.”
“I know, Mommy. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Janet said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
I lifted my head and turned to see my sister’s stricken face. “I’m OK now,” I said, lifting myself onto my side. My mother’s face relaxed, though she said sternly, “I don’t want you girls ever doing that again.” We nodded solemnly. “Do you want me to make you some noodles and cream cheese?” she asked me.
“Yes please,” I said. My mother left the room shaking her head and I put one hand around Janet’s shoulder and the other into her palm. “Here, you keep the diamond spell; you deserve it,” I said solemnly. I knew we’d pick at the long scab on my back for weeks and that somehow gave me solace.
Boiled broad egg noodles, mixed with cream cheese and butter, was my comfort food as a child. The hot noodles melted the cream cheese and the resulting concoction soothed away any pains. As an adult, I still reach for broad egg noodles, but now I make a slightly more complicated dish that works as well to soothe and smooth away the rough spots.
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