My father and I are in the living room. No one else is there. He is putting on my socks and shoes, yellow ankle socks. He has never done this before. My mother is the one who does this.
It’s a dark living room with dark bookshelves up to the ceiling. I stick one foot out at a time. My father holds first one in his hand, then the other, fitting a yellow ankle sock over each one.
I go to the neighbor’s house. They are two very old people with gray hair. their house is white and dark inside. Sometimes I go there by myself.
In New York City the streets near where I live are very cold and a dark grey color.
Where I work now there is light. The wood of my desk is pale and there is a skylight overhead that lets a lot of sunlight into the room. In summer I have to tie a brightly colored piece of cloth over my desk for shade.
When I walk in New York City that first winter I wear a long brown coat with a hood. I feel like a glamorous fairy tale figure in it. It is perfect and different form anything I have ever seen. My mother bought it for me. We went to Macy’s together. It cost one hundred dollars. It is the most expensive piece of clothing I have ever had.
In Virginia my coat is red red red with white fluff around the hood. It is a ski jacket. My mother calls my coat a ski jacket. I picked it from the Sears catalog and she ordered it. Our house when I am wearing the red ski jacket is large and white with fancy furniture that doesn’t belong to us. There are fields all around the house, sometimes with cows. My mother buys my sister and I two baby chicks at Easter time. One is bright pink, the other bright purple. As the chicks slowly grow up, their bright dyed colors fade to the tips of their feathers, as if the color were washing away. We move again and the chicks don’t come with us.
To get to the house you have to drive up the hill from the main road on a long dirt road. at one point on the drive up you have to go slow over the cattle grid. It is a metal grate set in the road. Cows won’t walk across it because their hooves will get stuck between the bars. The cows belong to someone else. The land, everything, belongs to someone else who I never see. We just live here. We live here twice. We come and go, and come back because my father likes this house. We live in one house in the summer and the big white one in the winter.
In the summer the house we are in is dark and shady and musty and acts like no one has looked after it for a long time. Things don’t work in this house. It’s a bit like camping out. My father sits outside on the grass and drinks a beer there. He eats cantaloupe because it’s not fattening. My father its trying to lose weight. He eats Ry-Vita instead of bread. His stomach is big.
I walk home from school down a road through green woods and I think the whole time about the rabid foxes that all the grown-ups keep talking about. One will come out of the woods any minute. I know it.
My grandfather sits with my father on the grass. My grandfather does not talk much. He looks grouchy and sad almost all the time. Sometimes he cries a little. He is visiting from Hungary. He and I don’t talk to each other because he doesn’t speak English, but I don’t think my grandfather would say much anyway. His wife, my grandmother, talks more, and my father, their son, talks most of all. My father is never quiet. My mother is quiet, as if she can’t think of what to say.
My father buys a reel-to-reel tape recorder while we are in this summer house. He shows it to us in the dark living room. The tape recorder makes him happy. He likes to press its buttons and make it work. No one else touches it. It’s his.
Here too is when I take a test because they want to put me in a different school. My father tells me I have passed the test. He is pleased. This is good.
They want me to leave my school. The one they put me in is newer, more modern. with bright lights and hallways. The school I leave behind is dark with a staircase and kind Mrs. Turner who never gets angry with me. She has brown hair she wears pinned up in a bun. Her desk is at the back of the classroom. The desks are in long rows, one child behind the next. During recess I play jump rope – two girls hold each end, turning the long rope. I stand to the side, getting the rhythm of their turning until in I leap and I am jumping and we yell out PAUL JOHN GEORGE RINGO over and over, and the one that trips you up is the one you are in love with.