My Neighborhood

  • Where does the sun rise? To see it rise, I look out the picture windows overlooking the slope of the hill upon which our house was built, through a defunct apple orchard, through a meadow  and across a highway bordered by hills and forests.

  • Are there pets in your neighborhood? What kinds? What are their names?  We have a tabby cat named Spock and an Irish Wolfhound named Mulligan. There are a lot of deer, skunks, gophers, hawks, and voles. There are some black and brown bear.
  • What’s it like out in front of your place? Out in back? Our house doesn’t really have a front and back. The main entryway is reached through a breezeway, so it’s actually in the middle of the house. One side of our house is closest to the dirt road that leads to our driveway. Since our house is built on a hill, the road is actually above the foundation of our house. There are pine trees growing thickly along the upper side of this road. To one side and down the hill from our house is an untended apple orchard. The trees haven’t been pruned or sprayed in a long time. The trunks and branches are covered with moss. The fruit is full of worms, but smells spicy and sweet.
  • Where do you play alone? What do you play?  I play alone all around and inside my house. During the summer months, I ride my dirt bike along the unpaved roads or over a pile of soil my parents had planned on adding to a garden. I climb the apple trees and forage for wild strawberries at their bases. I plan to build a tree house and haul lots of lumber to a likely tree. I pound in some nails haphazardly, but never quite manage to make something house-like. In the winter, I go sledding down the hill away from my house. Indoors, I play in my room. I read books. I draw. I daydream.
  • Where do you play with others? What do you play? My brother and I often ride our bikes together. We take turns racing down the zip line my dad hung from some trees behind our house. When our friends, the Cherots, come to stay the summer, we often play at their house, which is much larger than ours. We practice pitching and hitting baseballs. My brother is angry that I can hit the ball farther than he can. It often rolls down the hill towards our house. Sometimes, the Cherots, my brother and I work on the “fort” we are creating underneath an old log in the meadow below our house. We dig out rich black soil to make the space bigger. We come home covered in black dirt, but with bright white smiles and sparkling eyes. Our parents surreptitiously check to make the sure the log won’t collapse on us if we continue excavating. It’s deemed safe enough…for now.
  • Is there music in your neighborhood? What kind? Who plays it? The only music in our neighborhood is what my dad blasts from his precious sound system. Barrelhouse boogie. Louis and Ella. Pavarotti. He often rattles the piano with his own lively playing. I practice my scales and work on a Bach prelude. Sometimes, I puff away at my french horn, but I don’t like it very much. I wanted to play the clarinet.
  • Where does that nice person live? Who is it? What’s the address? The Cherots visited the area in the summer months. For most of the year, they lived in Canada, so we didn’t see them that often. Addresses? #1 or #2. We don’t have street addresses.
  • What’s that smell? Where does it come from? In the winter, the air is thick with the smell of wood smoke. The only way we can keep our home warm is to burn the logs we harvest during the summer months. In the summer, the place smells of dust, resin and pine needles.
  • Tell about the haunted (spooky, scary, mysterious) building or house. There are no mysterious buildings. The spookiest looking thing in the area was the lightening struck tree down the road. A hawk built her nest in it. We often see her sweeping through the skies, looking for tasty voles.
  • What interesting (wild, sad) thing happened one holiday? On the last day of school, after the school bus dropped me off, I begin walking home. I believe it’s  slightly less than a mile, but it is all uphill and I have to carry my stupid french horn the entire way. It is an awkward thing to carry, narrow at one end and flaring out into a huge bell–that knocks against my knees with every step. About halfway up the hill, I notice a sad little lump of striped fur on the side of the roadway. I mistake it for Spock. I pick up the terrifyingly stiff and bloody carcass and carry it the rest of the way home, wailing the entire way. My poor kitty! When I arrive at my house, Spock runs across the dirt-packed driveway after a tiny rodent of some sort. I throw the corpse away and chase after my cat, thrilled to see Spock still alive.
  • Who is the bully? What does he or she do to bully people? There are no bullies nearby. There is a bully at our elementary school who picks on my little brother by calling him names and shoving him around. I punched him in the face and made his nose bleed. My brother is not gratified that I protected him. He’s embarrassed.
  • Where’s the place you like best? Tell why.  I like sitting in the crook of an apple tree reading a book. It’s peaceful up there. I can look out over the field and listen to the leaves rustling in a breeze. It calms me. Also, my brother doesn’t often bother me here. My mother and father don’t interrupt me to ask me to do chores, like stacking wood or pulling weeds.
  • What special things do you eat? Where do you get it? Is it good? We eat my mother’s home cooking, which is mostly meat and potatoes. The grocery store in Kalispell doesn’t carry too many exotic items, which frustrates my mother, who has ambitions to be a gourmet chef. She reads cooking magazines and attempts something unusual, like Chinese lemon chicken that requires a dozen lemons and a specially ordered wok. Once, she read in the newspaper that eating liver would make everyone healthy, so she tried cooking it. None of us could choke it down, so we drove all the way into town for a hamburger and fries.
  • Where do you go when you run away, or pretend to?  I like to hide under the log in the meadow. Adults won’t pester me there.
  • Where are the dangerous places?  The most dangerous place is the highway. We stand well away from it when we wait for our bus there. Some drivers go way too fast, especially when there’s ice and snow on the roads.
  • What can you hear when you stand in this one place? When I’m sitting in the crook of my favorite apple tree I can hear the following things: the chatter of nuthatches, the cry of a hawk, the creaking of a pine tree as it sways in the breeze. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barks and a cow moos. Every now and then, the roar of a car on the highway echoes along the ridges surrounding my home. When I’ve been outside for too long, my mother calls me in to dinner.
  • Where do you see animals? Tell about them.  I see animals everywhere. When looking out the picture windows of our house, I can see a little owl in the branch of a pine tree. I see my cat, Spock, leap out from a hiding spot and startle a deer grazing nearby, which Spock chases down the hill. I can see my dog, Mulligan, racing around the meadow and barking at gophers. Every once in awhile, a black bear will trundle through.
  • Where can you collect things? What things? I collect things from all over. I am especially fond of pine cones. The larger the better. If only they weren’t so prickly and sticky with sap. I also like to collect interesting stones. Smooth and shiny ones, worn down by wind and water. The best things to “collect” are the wild strawberries that grow around my house. They are tiny bits of exquisite sweetness. Commercially cultivated and home-grown strawberries can’t compare.
  • Tell about the place you are afraid to go to. I am not afraid to go anywhere. The world feels like a safe place to me. I don’t often wander far from home, though, because my parents might worry. I want to be where I can hear their voices if they call for me. I won’t wander too far during hunting season though. I’ve heard sad stories about accidental shootings of people and pets by hunters who mistook them for game. We wear bright colors when outside in November.
  • Tell about the person you feel sorry for. I feel sorry for the boy in my fourth grade class who came from Vietnam. He was traumatized in some way don’t fully understand. I don’t know if it had to do with turmoil from his home country or something more personal such as parental neglect or abuse. I do know that he stabbed my teacher with a pair of safety scissors because he was afraid or angry. I also feel sorry for my teacher because that must have hurt a lot and it must be frustrating not being able to help a kid.


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