Castle Rock. — a personal narrative essay about childhood in New Hampshire I wrote for an English class in college
Some time around 10:30 PM (I’m too lazy to check the call log), my phone woke me up (think “Concerning Hobbits” as referenced in my post from last week). People are always calling me for random reasons at all hours of the day and night. It was my roommates, there was a kitten stuck under the hood of a truck downstairs. I was half asleep, it was a very confusing phone call. The small killing machine herself is now safe — and clean — in a carrier in the back bedroom. She’s as cute as they come, not feral AT ALL, and has had a very rough day. I guess the story is that she was stuck there all day, though maybe not ALL day because I walked the not-my-dog twice Monday and we would have noticed kitten meows. I found a trapped kitten myself by the rectory at the church up the street a few months back (a fun fiasco — I needed to tie up the not-my-dog to not freak the kitten out, but the dog was freaking out because the man who was helping me was a stranger and was way too close to one of her people).
I feel like a horrible person for hoping the cat goes somewhere else (like back to its real family or to a nice home), but we have three kids five and under, a cat, a dog, two frogs, a gecko, a goldfish, plus my two guinea pigs. The three year-old is, well, she’s Elmira — terrorizes all animals but is also deluded that they like her (Elmira is a character from Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs! — my afternoon tween and teen cartoon destination). The last thing this crazy house needs is a kitten (the cat agrees, she’s old and cranky and still hasn’t forgiven them for the dog).
Apart from that?
My new *workout plan* involves taking the not-my-dog running on 2.6 mi round-trip trips on a local designated bike path…on a (pro series) Razor scooter. She is half chihuahua and half rat terrier — and the terrier means she has the energy of your average nuclear reactor (ROCKET DOG!!!!). And darn it if that critter won’t pull me if we’re on a slight decline. Really though…the sight of a thirty-something on a scooter, with a helmet (so uncool…and yet so safe, I’ve broken two helmets in falls and have been hit by cars twice — one rolled a red light, the other didn’t stop at a driveway; the helmet stays), with a weird little rat dog racing like a bat out of hell DEFINITELY turns heads…but generally in a “WTH was that?!” kind of way. Like dog mushing on a much smaller and more eccentric scale. But really, if you are my friend, you understand that for all the intellectual high-brow stuff, part of me remains still seven years-old (I am only 98% grown-up).
The 98% grown-up was getting very cranky this afternoon. I did, finally, finish my post on gratitude, but needed to sit close enough to the WiFi to pick up the signal…which put me in the middle of the living room policing a child with whom I was losing my patience as she seemed hell-bent on being as annoying as humanly possible. I eventually threw her butt in time out for not listening because I was just sick of dealing with her…and the catch was that she wasn’t listening in time out either, so I wouldn’t have cared if she stayed in time out forever. Brother is sick and was home from school, others are getting sick…it was just a crazy busy day where what I thought was going to get done didn’t get done.
The air conditioning was fixed before dinner, so I retreated to my room at dinner time and took a four hour nap (haven’t really slept since at least last Wednesday). It was too lovely for words.
I don’t remember what my next writing topic will be — I looked at it last night, but I was very tired at the time. I remember being delighted by it. I give myself permission to deal with it in the morning.
Life distracts with a silly thing called “reality” that keeps getting in my way. Visiting my relatives, spending beloved time with my baby niece, three small children (not mine, my roommates’, but beloved just the same) who are a force of nature that could bring down an empire (and possibly win a land war in Asia in a year or two), enough Dora the Explorer episodes as the constant soundtrack of life in this house to make me fairly certain that the solution to all my problems is probably hiding at the bottom of a talking purple backpack, and the very STRONG suspicion that Swiper has swiped my sanity, plus the crazy measures needed to attain both use of my laptop and use of WiFi concurrently mean that everything I’m writing is being written long-hand first? Well, it just makes the writing process more of a challenge (but I’m probably a better writer for it). – VKS
If you’re also subjected to too much of a certain small, enthusiastic Latina and her purple monkey friend, this will make total sense to you:
I was just three when we came — came to that big yellow house. It was number thirty-eight on the north side of meandering Cota Road — Cota Road which paralleled the Sowhegan River in the rocky woods of New Hampshire. There are no woods there any longer. The only woods left are the ones that live on in my mind.
A big yellow house always seems thus when you are a small child trying to “make it” in an adult-sized world. To my poor mother, stranded in the woods with two small children, that house was never big enough . . . the walls were closing in on her. But for a wide-eyed child? There was much fun to be had in a big house in the woods of New Hampshire.
Californians seem to know nothing about the concept of a “real” backyard. Here, one will only find tracts with lots carved out like some giant birthday cake — but there are places in this world where life does not exist on a massive, treeless grid. My backyard in New Hampshire was one of those places.
Some of the most prominent features in that yard were several large granite boulders — which were too large and too heavy to be cleared. The largest of these was four or five feet high, and right at the edge of the woods. Oh those woods! My parents filled my ears with horrific stories of what would happen if my feet ventured even one step beyond the edge of our backyard. I would surely be eaten by some horrible creature or swept away into oblivion by the rushing river. The farthest I could ever go was the big rock — my rock.
That rock was my castle and my refuge, my thinking and my dreaming spot as a small child. I have a sister who was three years my junior — that rock was my tower above her, and my refuge to escape her tagging along behind me. She was just too little to climb up by herself, and our parents did not want her up there for fear she would fall. Grown-ups don’t understand anything important, so my parents had no use for a big rock. It was my rock — for no one else wanted it — and it was my escape from the world. After all, everyone needs a quiet place to think and to dream.
I will never forget the day my rock fortress was finally invaded and overtaken by enemy forces. For nearly four years I had been evading my annoying little sister by scrambling on top of that rock, until one day . . . she was finally able to climb up on her own. An era had ended, and the great kingdom of by backyard, which I had ruled for so long from my castle-rock, had been seemingly overthrown. Life was never the same again.
Soon after my sister mastered the skill of climbing my rock, my family and I were forced to move from our no-longer-so-big yellow house in the rapidly-shrinking woods of Merrimack, New Hampshire, along the shores of the Sowhegan River. I’ve never returned, but I hear tell that the woods are almost gone, and I doubt that the house is any longer yellow. It wouldn’t seem at all big to me now. The jungle gym moved from New Hampshire with us, and was left behind when we later left New Mexico. The swing set we left has likely long since rusted away. But my rock? My rock is still there.
(This was written for a personal narrative essay assignment in an English Class in 2002 — VKS)