1. My dearest childhood friend was Kelly. She lived around the corner and despite the fact that I was deathly afraid of her family's Chihuahua named Cocoa Bean, I loved to spend afternoons at her house playing games and dreaming up a million things to be when we grew up. At one point or another, our career goals included being fashion designers, archaeologists, singers, and astronauts (though I was not as committed to space travel as Kelly). Not only was Kelly terribly cool, she was incredibly kind. Once in elementary school, we found ourselves in the middle of some girl drama--being recruited into a group that was planning to exclude several others. I remember Kelly bringing me a note after school, written in her cute handwriting with little doodled cartoons, letting me know that I could do whatever I wanted, but that she wasn't going to take part in anything that made other people feel bad. Every kid should have a friend like that.
2. I remember being half-asleep in our big red station wagon on our way home from somewhere, anywhere. I'd keep my eyes closed and try to guess where we were by the feel of the road--the stops, the bumps, the turns. As soon as I felt the car go over one slow dip, then two dips close together, I knew we were almost home.
3. There was a house in our neighborhood, next door to Kelly's, that reeked of sadness. In our otherwise tidy neighborhood, this house was unkempt and unwelcoming. One year, a strange man came to live with the family, except that he didn't live in the house. He lived in a small pop-up trailer parked on the side of the house. He was an ex-con, and that's what we called him, "the ex-con," even though I used the term before I actually knew what it meant. He would sit outside all the time, smoking, and watching as people came and went. Neighborhood gossip informed us that he was a rapist, a burglar, a kidnapper. It was terrifying and thrilling, but mostly terrifying. I often rode my purple bike the long way to get to Kelly's house to avoid his stare. I don't remember what ever happened to him. Does anybody remember?