Dinner and Jacks at Angie’s, My Teenage Idol
I was a bee, crammed in a hive with incessant buzzing around me. Nana was the queen, situated in her own quiet bedroom. Mom and Dad slept in the converted living room with baby Jon’s cradle pushed up against their bed, leaving little room for their armoire doors to open. I shared a bedroom with three-year-old Michael.
Most of the time we inhabited the hive with a minimum of collisions, but sometimes it was too much for me. That’s when I would escape to visit my teenage idol, Angie, who lived with her parents in the flat below us. This kindly and sometimes bored teenager in my imagination had the figure of Marilyn Monroe. Her dresses were calf length, unlike mine that displayed my often-scraped knees.
After school, spelling sentences written or math facts completed, I would tromp down the two narrow staircases and rap on her door, hoping for an invitation.
One day when Angie answered, the intense aroma of Italian seasoning exploded from the cracked doorway. I peeked inside to see her mama standing over the porcelain Wedgewood stove, apron tied over her prodigious hips. She was stirring a gigantic pot of tomato sauce with meatballs.
“Can you play?” I asked. “OK. Wanna play Jacks?” Angie sat me down in a corner of the spacious kitchen to wait while she got the Jacks from her bedroom. I ran my fingers along the seam of the swirly black-and-white linoleum floor trying to be inconspicuous while sniffing the aroma of that scrumptious pot on the stove. Wish I could stay for dinner.
I spread the skirt of my new cotton plaid dress over my bent knees. My skinny arms stuck out of the baby-doll sleeves, and I recalled my mother’s comment: “Maybe a sweater to cover your elbows.”
The dress had cost $2.99, and I knew Mom wouldn’t want it soiled. I remember watching her remove the three single dollars from her billfold one by one, leaving me to wonder if she might change her mind.
Angie returned with the Jacks, the “good” kind. They were sturdy and colorful while mine were tinny and gray. She was a master at whisking up a specified number of jacks and never made allowances for my age. I didn’t win a game, but I didn’t care. I was with Angie, my idol, in her mama’s luscious-smelling kitchen.
“I can play till dinner,” she said. “That’s OK,” I said. Angie’s mama snapped her head around. “Hey, you stay here for the dinner?” I grinned and nodded.
“You telephone to you mama.” Now I would be able to play Jacks without thinking about dinner. Mealtime was quiet compared to our house, and Angie’s parents wanted to know everything about her day. She got their attention all the time. No younger brothers. I relaxed and soaked up the peacefulness of this household as if from a ceasefire. Angie told her mom that I came close to winning Jacks today, and I lowered my head to hide my satisfied blush.
Peaceful meal. Praise. Meatballs stuffed into hungry mouths. Chaos at my kitchen table on the floor above. I had escaped for this night.
Your Turn to Write:
Was there a special teenager in your life, and how did you relate to him or her? Describe a situation in which you felt a need to escape and tell what you did about it. Did you have a refuge, either in reality or in your daydreams?