We always lived in humble homes. In Urbana, we moved into a small two-bedroom apartment – one half of a duplex. A small horde of college guys occupied the other side. As a rambunctious pre-teen this was ideal. Their rituals like building cans of beer as high as possible fascinated me. It was kind of an early, drunken form of Jenga.
The guys were nice though, and always treated me well. Mom was in school and worked late, so I was often on my own, and those guys were there to help in a pinch. She had picked this location specifically for its proximity to my grade school. I walked the block to school, and back home each weekday.
We lived there for three years. My cat used my bedroom window as his escape route for nightly hunting excursions. The aged oak tree in the front yard was my favorite jungle gym. I could scramble up the low, wide truck, into the awaiting branches, and easily lounge in the tree arms with a good book.
In the evening before bed-time mom would make hot minty tea for me, or “more milk” – a soporific drink consisting of warmed milk, vanilla extract, and honey.
We never had much in the way of money, so pretty much everything we owned was thrift store, hand-me-down, or home-made. My single bed was some dime store find, with simple sheets most likely found in a dark cupboard at my grandparents house, threadbare, and awkwardly patterned. She would draw a magic circle around my bed to protect me from the heebie-jeebies, kiss me on the forehead, and tuck me into bed.
I wonder if that kind of comfort is unique to childhood? That particular lack of future worry and that security of knowing your parent is in the next room, just in case the magic circle doesn’t keep everything bad away.