A true story of my last major childhood memory.
| I was born in a small town called Sioux City, on the border between the states of Iowa and South Dakota. Life was peaceful there as a kid, and things were simpler, there and then, than things are today. The streets were largely clear, and it was relatively easy to get to know the people you live around. However, this is as much as I can describe life during my childhood. I have very few memories of when I grew up, what people I knew, or even how long I actually lived there. There is only one memory that stands out among the fog: the last act of kindness my older brother showed towards me.
It was early winter, and I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, my brother a year older. We would wake up early in the morning to get ready for school, when it would still be near completely dark for at least another thirty minutes to an hour. We bundled up tightly, in thick snow-wear over our normal sweaters and pants, and wore doubled-up gloves and hats to protect our hands and ears from the harsh early-winter cold.
As soon as we were both ready to leave, we went to the garage and pulled out our bicycles. We took advantage of the little traffic, leaving far before the sun even began to crest the horizon, as seeing a car at this time of the morning, at this time of the year was practically unheard of for us.
My brother ran back inside and brought out our backpacks as I waited outside, shivering slightly as I held our bikes up. He returned shortly and handed me my backpack, which I struggled to put on over my thick heavy jacket. We mounted our bikes and slowly left the driveway.
We rode through the middle of the street, not worrying about any oncoming traffic. At the end of the street we lived on, we took a sharp right in the direction of our school, which was only about two to three blocks from our home. I shivered slightly as we rode along, a heavy chill clinging to the morning air around us.
About a block from the school, we pulled over along the side of a small building. The sign on the front read “Laundromat” in a faded blue font. As we approached the front door, my brother stopped and fished around in the pockets of his jacket, pulling out some loose coins. He picked a few out and handed them to me, about fifteen cents.
We entered the building and walked to the back, where there was a counter and a service window. A woman was on the other side of the window, possibly arranging some of the items held within. My brother reached up and knocked on the window. The woman looked down at us and smiled, sliding the window open. She was obviously still tired, and she spoke softly. “What can I help you kids with this morning?”, she asked.
My brother and I set our spare change on the counter, and he asked politely for two packages of gum. The woman disappeared beyond the counter and returned with two five-packs of Juicy Fruit chewing gum, handing one to each of us. We said our thanks and went to the front of the Laundromat, where we found a small table with some chairs seated by the front window.
I set my backpack on the floor and shrugged out of my heavy coat, draping it over the back of my seat as I sat down. My brother sat opposite me and repeated the same actions as I had taken. Almost in unison, we unwrapped our packages of gum and slid a single stick into our mouths and began chewing. We sat for a moment in silence before I reached over, digging through my backpack, and pulled out my homework from the previous night, only half complete.
My brother sighed lightly and slid his chair, so he sat perpendicularly to me, and reached for the unfinished paper. He reached over into his own backpack and pulled out a pencil. He began circling some things on my paper, then passed it back to me. He had circled some of my problems, and what I assumed were the key words to each problem on the paper. He started to explain to me what I had missed and how to do each problem, helping me complete my homework before the school day started.
After about a half-hour, I shoved my homework back into my backpack and struggled back into both my coat and the pack, as did my brother. We thanked the woman one last time before we left the building. We picked up our bicycles, which we had simply left laying down beside the building (there were little to no reports of theft around the neighborhood, so we didn’t worry). We mounted them once again and, exchanging glances with one another, continued on to our school to begin our day of learning.