Poem: One of Many People

 

One of Many People

by Shannon P. Laws

I have been was
a second grader in 1976
My hair was long
my skin was tan
and someone gifted
me a turquoise ring

Looking back I don’t
remember having many friends
but I was happy and free
and in love with my world

I built a comic book
reading fort in the
garage rafters of our
9th Avenue home

It was a room by itself
It had a clock radio
a small, warm lamp
cushions and blankets
for me and the cat

I read
Dynamite
MAD
Marvel and D.C.
and the spooky “Believe It Or Not” comics

I miss that girl

Puberty and the 80’s were
crouched around the corner
ready to pounce
ready to pound me into another person

It will never be 1976 again
I’ll never be that long haired girl again

 

Me, 2nd grade, cu from classroom photo

 

Dynamite, issue 25, July 1976 “Space 1999 takes off!” An American pop culture magazine for children 1974-1992

 

My Secret Crush


Double Dare, Part II
This December I found myself on the dance floor of a New Years house party, covered in sweat, surrounded by others, who were proportionately sweaty, doing a combination dancing, and shouting out lyrics to classic songs.
During the song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, I bumped into a writer friend, Maria Mcleod.  “Ready Freddy!” she shouted, “Freddy! That was the name of my secret crush!”  This comment got my attention.  I too had a secret crush in school.   She shared her story, I shared her mine.  We each had a long lasting crush on someone for years, never told anyone. 
The Challenge
“I dare you to blog about your crush.  To tell the world that you loved that guy all those years!” I shouted over the music.  She agreed to the challenge.  Please read her story posted here:

So, in keeping with good form, here is my story:

I Crush Bobby F.

Sometime around 6th grade my eyes and heart found Bobby F.  He was perfect in my mind, the perfect guy; average height, great smile, dreamy blue, intelligent eyes, dark blond curly hair. He had a sweet laugh and was liked by everyone, although he didn’t belong to any specific cliques. I crushed him for over six years, from when I was about 12-18 years old, and never told ANYONE, ’till now.
I crushed him big time! He was perfect. I simply did not have the guts to talk to him. When we passed each other in the hallway at school Bobby’s profile glowed, he body captured the rays of the sun!  He was a cool breeze on a hot day, a tall glass of water quenching my thirst.  He was just so… so… oh my god, so, totally cute! 
In 10th grade I sat two chairs away from him in History. TWO. I loved it.  I loved being so close to my crush.  He was practically a man now.  His muscles filled in his polo shirt, and Levis, his checkered Vans properly scuffed.  Distraction does not describe my feelings!  Perhaps, if I touched him there would be a spark, and he would forever be in my life, like magic! I didn’t want to reach out. I wanted him to notice me, to touch me, to ask me out, to ask me to prom.  He never did. 
Federal Way Stadium
Federal Way Mirror News, photo
I played fullback on the High School soccer team.  The first High School girls team in the history of the Federal Way School District.  Once, during a rainy night game, Bobby came to watch with some friends.  When I saw him in the bleachers I freaked, “What’s HE doing here?  Oh my god, Bobby is here.  Does he have a secret crush on me and is here to see me?  Perhaps if I stand out in the game, make an awesome move, he’ll ask me out.” My mind raced to find reason.  
We were playing against Thomas Jefferson; those little b#%ch’s with blond pony tails, our biggest rivals. TJ Raiders versus Federal Way Eagles.
The game was close and heated.  Second half, a Federal Way run towards Thomas Jefferson’s goal turned bad.  Suddenly, a long pass to the TJ  forward I was guarding, placed the two of us head to head just on the Eagles side of the center line.  The forward faked me out with a quick move, and then took off toward our goal. FW fullbacks had previously moved up to support the momentum. The play was well outside the penalty box; I had plenty of time, if I could get to her. 

Federal Way Eagles, I am #6
Feeling Bobby’s eyes on my every step I turned quickly, running in overdrive, focused on the ball and the TJ forward’s feet.  I knew where I was on the field; I could see our goalie getting in position. In my peripheral vision, just to my left, our center fullback was coming in for support, but it was my move, that girl was in my zone

The TJ forward didn’t see me coming from behind, the gap between us closing… then she did it.  She made the mistake I look for.  It was a gift from the Soccer Gods and Venus herself.  Being the little stuck-up, as I knew she was, she assumed I was still at mid field, where she left me.  She thought she had the time to kick the ball just a little out, to position it for a strong kick at our goal.  I was one step away, the ball in the perfect place with my stride, -whooosh… SLIDE TACKLE!  NO CARD! 
She tripped over my feet, sliding belly first across wet turf.  For a few minutes, I heard cheering and wondered if one of them was Bobby.  “Did he see me?  Will he say something to me in History tomorrow?“, I asked myself.
…I wish
Bobby never noticed me.  I was just another student who walked the halls.  
My imagination, made him out to be more and more unattainable, and more desirable.  My feelings for Bobby slowly became like a special dessert hidden at the back of the freezer waiting for a guest that never arrives, or that bottle of champagne, set aside for a special moment, that never pops open. Anticipation at it’s worse.
I dated other guys, none from my school.  Mostly losers, like, the notorious dude from Auburn who picked me up for an AC/DC concert in a stolen car.  
Early summer, in our last year of High School, I realized Bobby and I would never be together.  I had more fun dreaming about our relationship than I had the guts to say “Hi” to him. It was time to let him go… well a little bit anyways.

Bobby turned into something surreal.  A mystery man, wanderer, the Authentic Stranger, a traveler among the stars, or an extra-terrestrial appearing suddenly, during a full-moon night, in order to initiate me into strange love games. A fantasy of a young woman.  

In my mind, my memories, I edit the moments.
We are young, meeting in a field sun shines on his golden locks,
he walks towards me and simply says “Hi”.
He touches me.
Then we kiss.
Off in the distance the sound of a champagne “pop” confirms,
my guest has finally arrived.
Perfect. 
In 8th grade this is how I imagined our first kiss to be like,
except with different hair.

***

Road Fury

1978 Chrysler Fury Magazine Commercial

A few days ago I received a text from my daughter: “I drove myself home!” 
My daughter just recently earned her drivers license and drove herself home from college for the first time. She sounded so happy! For various reasons she didn’t get her license until her second year of college. Now, a whole time zone away from me, she is driving. I wished I was there to help her celebrate!

In my home growing up, dad was the designated driving instructor. He was well qualified for two reasons. 1- Experience. At different parts of his life he had many driving jobs such as milkman, ambulance driver, and mailman, and 2- he was dad. Throughout the seasons dad taught me how to drive in rainy weather, mud, snow, high winds and ice. Living in the Pacific Northwest these are important skills to have. You could experience all those road conditions in one outing.

I couldn’t wait to drive!  The first weekend I had my learners permit, I begged my dad to take me driving. He chose to give me lessons in our family’s used metallic green 78′ Plymouth Fury. It was 1983 but the Fury was retro before retro. This “boat on wheels” was bad ass! It had a killer stereo and could fit at least seven to eight people in it, six with seat belts, two could sit comfortably on the back floor; the leg room was outrageous. My brother and I often joked we could carry livestock in it!  My ego was being fed by the shovel full as my hand reached down to adjust the massive 6 foot long front seat forward so I could reach the pedals. I was pretty positive the seat had never been that far forward. I felt invincible in that tank!

On that first day, permit in hand, dad taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. As we approached a sharp right turn behind a strip mall off Highway 99, my overconfidence got the best of me. A mischievous grin stretched ear to ear across my face when I read the yellow arrow sign “SLOW 25 mph”. I took my foot off the gas and let the cars momentum slow itself down from 35 to 25 in less than a block, cranking the wheel to the right once the speedometer hit “25 mph.” The large chrome “bumper-o-fury” crossed the solid yellow line into on-coming traffic, just missing another car. I was proud of myself, and my stunt driver type moves, but I was the only one who was.

Now my dad was a quiet man, full of patience. There were few times growing up when I saw him get angry or yell, just a few, but when he did the heavens shook!

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? THIS IS NOT A GAME!”

The sound waves of his shouting reverberated through my bones, out the left side of my body and out  the Fury’s door, my long black hair blowing straight back in the invisible waves!  The steel door vibrated at such a frequency, amplifying each word to unnatural levels that I imagined all insects, small mammals and children under 10 within line of sight of that sound wave instantly dropped to the ground unconscious, stunned!

After I pulled over into the library parking lot per instructions, dad’s lecture put the fear of God in me and the seriousness of my actions were made clear. Being the driver of a vehicle is a privilege not a right, and this privilege comes with responsibility. It wasn’t a ride at a fair.

My daughter learned how to drive through a drivers class at college. She did it all herself. I’d have to guess that they talk about statistics and gave a ten point lecture on how to drive defensively. I’m sure she is going to make a fine driver, but I must confess, when the roads get hairy and I’m surrounded by idiot drivers, the first thing I think about is respect.  Respect for the rules of the road as I drive my 4000 pounds of metal and the other drivers sitting in theirs.  Without that things could get… well… furious!

Enchanted Music from Hell

Once a month the writers group on the island meets to critique works submitted by other members. I’ve decided to submit a portion of a book I’m working on. This is a first draft; I’ll follow up on the feedback I get in May.

This chapter of the book is about my job at Enchanted Village in Federal Way, Washington. I was a 15 yr old ride operator making my first regular paycheck.

“Before every ride we repeated the safety rules, and as the customers exited the ride, per company rules– we wished them all “Have a happy day!”
Saying good bye was right out. These people needed to have a HAPPY day! It was forced on them not only by every ride operator or food vendor they met, but also by the insanely happy music and bird chirping effects played non-stop over the loud speakers located throughout all 12 acres. YOU WERE GOING TO BE HAPPY you couldn’t’t escape it, not even in the parking lot or the restrooms!

I remember one day I was alone upstairs in the elf-employee break room. There was this long hallway that joined the break room to the park offices. I spied the sound system. The music was on a double sided 2 hour tape reel. It played over and over again like a merciless monster. I thought for the tapes safety they should keep it under lock and key; I was sure I wasn’t the only one who hated it. But there it spun over and over again in plain sight, mocking me. For a brief moment I imagined myself ripping it off the reels in slow motion and with tape in arms, running down the stairs, knocking down the guy in a bunny outfit waving people in the door and throwing the tapes over the fence into I-5 traffic. But I didn’t do this and the tape lived on. By the end of a month I had the tape memorized. I was it’s tool.
Oh well, break over, back to work.

“Wow what an annoying song. They must play it in hell.”
A parent said to me once. “How can you stand that music ALL day?” I was shocked by this comment because most customers seemed to not notice it.
I wanted to say, “Mister, I’m 15 and dressed like Peter Pan’s sister and you think the only thing I’m worried about is the music?” Deep breath.
“Oh it’s not that bad. It’s happy. It keeps me happy. Have a happy day! Bye! Be Happy!””

One time many years later while shopping at grocery store I heard one of the songs played over the store speakers, and my eye started to twitch a bit. It haunts me to this day.

Current Wild Wave Enchanted Village Map

*The Enchanted Village theme park was first opened in 1977 by Byron Betts. The initial 12-acre (49,000 m2) park site held only a half-dozen rides. In 1984, Wild Waves Water park was built adjacent to Enchanted Village[2]; the combined amusement complex became known as Enchanted Parks. In 1992 park chief executive Jeff Stock paid $8 million for Enchanted Parks. Late in 2000 Six Flags purchased the park for $19.3 million.[3] In 2000 the park had grown to over 70 acres (280,000 m2), with more than 20 rides, and was the Northwest’s largest water park.[1] In 2002 approximately 1000 seasonal workers were employed for positions as rides operators and food service workers. Many of these seasonal workers are also students of local high schools. [4]

Blueberries and Veal

The Puyallup Valley with Mt Rainier
Date Written: 2006

This was one of the first rants I had ever written, on purpose. 
I kept it in it’s original form for posting here:

I grew up in Federal Way, a small city 45 min. South of Seattle, Washington. Thanks the volcanic activity the state is extremely fertile. As a child we very seldom ventured to the dry, hot eastern side, mostly due to fact that there is not much to do there. After I was married, my husband and I wanted to explore Washington. He was also raised in Federal Way; however we didn’t meet until 2 years after graduating.
My brother was working as a forest fireman in eastern Washington the summer of 1991 and we decided to go visit him. He had found a house to rent on an apple orchard. Our week was wonderful! I remember walking out to the porch and watching the bats swoop over head eating at all the flying bugs that come out right at dusk. I had never seen a bat until then and was fascinated. The lakes in eastern Washington are so clear and cool. Apple, peaches, wheat, all kinds of fields full of life!! I wondered “Why didn’t we visit this side of the mountains more often?”

Migrant Workers Live Here
During the week we took a little trip on a scenic route we randomly choose from an auto club map. Since it was the first part of summer the apple trees were green and there were small apples growing on them, all different colors and shapes. As we drove around one orchard, I noticed 7 white shacks, that reminded me of the tool shed my dad built in our backyard to house the lawn mower and other yard tools. These shacks were all white with a little window. They were placed in a row directly next to the orchard. “Why don’t they face those sheds towards the orchard?” I asked. “Why would they do that?” “ Isn’t that where they keep on the watering tools, hoses and whatnot for the trees?” “No honey,” my husband answered, “that is where the migrant workers stay.”  ***!POP!***

…That is the sound of my “reality” bubble popping! “People STAY, LIVE in those shacks?” “Yep. It’s a hard life.” “Well why can’t the farmer give them a better home?” “Do you want to pay $5.00 for an apple?” Some questions don’t have answers. I have many questions, but I am still looking for answers.

Two memories came to mind, right then. There are plenty of cow fields in Western Washington. If you get lost a few times trying to find a way around traffic you may stumble across a few. There was this one farm, way off the beaten path next to the Green River. Rows and rows of little white boxes were on this farm. I immediately assumed it was a bee farm. I rolled up my window to make sure no bees would get in my car as I zipped by this “beautiful bee farm”. I saw a gate, and a sign. It read “VEAL FARM”

Veal farm? I later learned that those little slits in the front were the breathing holes for the baby cows. They place them in those little white boxes to keep their meat tender.
The little white veal boxes reminded me of these migrant worker homes! Are the migrant workers just as trapped in their “box” as the baby cows? Do they have any other options?

I never ate veal again.

Berry Picking

Blueberries

My other memory was from my childhood. For about two summers my brother, and my two cousins and I were told we would pick berries for money. My mother had found summer jobs for us that provided transportation and paid cash at the end of the day working for local farmers. A big yellow bus would take our little “suburban bottoms” to the Puyallup Valley and place them in the middle of the berry fields. Berry fields and tulip fields are predominantly in the valleys all along the west side of the Cascade Mountains. We picked berries for 6 hours a day. We felt like we were being punished! The bus rides were long and hot. Let me tell you, the kids on those buses were tough. They were the brats parents didn’t want to look at. So, the four of us stayed close to each other, for protection more than anything. Somehow sending us on a bus to pick berries would install the value of hard work and money earned.

A flat equals 12 pints

It will not be a big surprise to you, but young teenagers are not naturally good berry pickers. You made about $1.50 a flat, the flat was wooden and heavy and you had to FILL IT UP. After carrying it to the truck, if the boss didn’t like it he would send you back to fill it up more. If he liked your flat he would punch your card. At the end of the day you would hand in your card for CASH! COLD HARD CASH!



The Koreans
I can’t remember which one of us was the better picker or how many I could pick in a day, but I do remember seeing the Korean pickers. We would rotate from one field to the next, not out of choice or strategy but because of bad behavior. It seems even old dusty farmers have standards in the work place. Berry fights, eating the berries and playing tricks on the boss like filling the flat up half way with dirt and claiming it’s full are reasons to get “reassigned”. One year we picked at four different fields: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry. Every field we picked at Korean immigrants would be there. They picked four times faster than we could. I tried to race one once. We both started the rows at the same time. He would visit the boss three times for my one! Did their moms make them pick also? Why weren’t they on our buss? One day we were talking about it around the house and my mother informed me that they pick berries for a living. FOR A LIVING?! That seemed amazing to me. I guessed if I HAD to pick berries for groceries and a roof over my head I would have taken it all more seriously.

I remember looking at a family of Koreans one morning. Fog on the ground, sun coming up, hundreds of rows of berries lay before us all. Because of their hard work and determination they would pick more berries, work longer hours, and make more money. I have much respect for people that work in the fields. It’s hard work, but it feeds many people in different ways.