by Cindy Wiggins Tapia
That Hedge of Imagination
My first memory goes back to the house on Hamilton Mill Road and the wharf rats that held a rodent con on the kitchen floor every night.
Daddy worked. Mama was forever cleaning house. They warred. Vickie was a baby. My Benji dog disappeared. I felt so alone and so scared.
Then came Mokey. Mokey didn’t criticize. Mokey didn’t growl when I accidentally on purpose stuck a comb’s tooth in his ear. Mokey didn’t show his teeth at me. Mokey didn’t smack me with a coat hanger. Mokey was invisible, but he was always there.
When we moved to Rest Haven, Mokey stayed behind. Without him to shield me from reality, I slipped deeper into that hedge of imagination.
In 1963, we moved into the bottom apartment of the Allen-company house on Hill St. It was a haunted, peeling, clapboard with no kitchen cabinets and a hot water heater the size of Delaware. It was cold as Antarctica come winter, and Daddy’s mother managed to scrape up enough sympathy to loan us two cabbage-rose quilts.
It’s saving grace was a huge backyard.
I’d hop on a broom and gallop down happy trails with Roy and Trigger. Run through the jungle with Tarzan. Smooch an ugly-butt character on Cowboy in Africa.
Other days, I’d stroll down Jones Alley, talking to Barnabas Collins. Or yap past the mansions on Main and Sawnee, belle of the antebellum set.. Or make up Barbie- and -Ken Fannie-Hurst tragedies on my parents‘ bed, jabbering away When I thought I knew what sex was I got myself up to Allen’s Five and Ten Cent store and bought a baby for them.
Every Friday after school I’d dash across town to get my hair fixed at Louise House’s beauty parlor on South Street. I’d make it back home in time for Mama and Papa Dorsey to pick me up to spend the night on their rented chicken farm. First thing, I’d put on one of her bras and stuff the cups with washcloths, pull a pink- and white-gingham dress over my head, slip into white sandals. and don a picture hat. Voilà! Scarlett O’Hara sashaying around the farmyard, dodging roosters and resisting Rhett’s advances.
“Don’t kiss me like that, Rhett!”
“Scarlett! Look at me! I’ve waited longer for you than I’ve ever waited for another woman.”
“Fiddle dee dee!”
I had two friends during my seven-year tour at Buford Grammar. First Susan Dollar, then Sandra Benton. When they weren’t around, I’d skip up the yellow brick road along the edges of the playground, talking to the Scarecrow. And answering for him. One such day, Denise Mathis came out of the real world and dragged me off to the monkey bars. I dodged her after that.
And then one afternoon—BOOM!—Diane Adams (Fox) and a bunch of kids picked up a baseball game in my big backyard. It’s a wonder I didn’t bolt into the house, but there I stood in right field, gathering wool, when a ball smacked off the bat and slapped down into the palm of my glove.
The cheers and friendliness of those days started the metamorphosis that turned this introvert into the yappy, go-get-em sweet tater I am today.