Big Kids’ Hill
If you were to take the skinny path on the left, the easiest way home would be to cut through the side yard of the house with the big sunflower garden in the back. You just had to make sure the old lady wasn't outside. But if you were to run into the woman under the straw hat, you could outrun her. If she was on her front porch you would just take a right onto the quiet street and head down toward the tennis courts. If you were to start out on the wider path on the right, you had a better chance of surviving on your bike bouncing over the roots. Of course you would take the woods way if you were pedaling, as they made a rule that you had to walk your bike down the steep hill. Yeah, right. The wider path would have you come out of the woods to a clearing at the top of Big Kids' Hill, where you could stop to teeter totter or swing a little before hopping back on and cruising down through the green space behind the houses and then take a right onto the quiet street, just shy of the tennis courts. You could also walk down the sidewalk and let good old Rosie, who knew your name, hold up her sign for you to cross the busy intersection at the bottom. When the bell rang we would pick up our books covered in brown paper bags and "walk, do not run," out the double doors to whichever path we had chosen. The little brown house on the corner of Rosa and Belin, the one with the monstrous willow tree that dwarfed it even more than it already was, is where I, along with my five brothers and sisters were heading, unless of course we were still home in diapers waiting for our kindergarten debut. At first sight of any kids enroute, the coffee clutching mothers of the neighborhood snubbed out their cigarettes, broke up their meetings and scrambled next door or a couple doors down in order to tell their children to wash their hands before sticking their fingers into the cookie jar. These were the days that shaped us. Inside the walls in that little building at the top of that hill, is where we learned most things that we remember to this day. I think this is because we had not yet been polluted. And for me personally, there were no fractions with percentages until middle school messing with my mind. So. When we first heard about the word prejudice in the third grade, we were all ears. "What does this mean?" She asked the class. No hands went up. "Look at it closely," she pointed to the chalk board. "There are two words in here. Pre and judge." "Oh," we said. "How would you feel if you walked into a room and the people in that room, who you never met before, didn't like you, just because?" I was mortified. Probably, as a psychiatrist pointed out to me one day much later in life, because I was a people pleaser. No matter the reason. Right there, in that desk, looking out that window at my path to choose home, I decided that I would never prejudge anybody. And I meant it. Even though it was not easy to stand up for Booger Ball Burnett in the sixth grade when the teacher was late one morning, I heard my voice yell, "Stop it! What is wrong with you people?" Which of course was followed up with a couple verses of, "Millie and Stevie up in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g." And then Mrs. Roth walked in the door and it stopped. That was pretty much the beginning and end of my life as an activist. Much like mathematics, insurance and politics, life turns into a lot of clatter and chatter as one goes through the ropes. If only we could remember when we were eleven. When our choices were crystal clear. When we could spot the bad apple, the piece of shit that Michael Jackson referred to, the one who chewed gum during class and then everyone got the extra homework. The guy who spoiled the whole bunch. Baby. Please try not to be the bad guy, because, I am a humor blogger who is not feeling very funny lately. And if you know anything about I, me, Millie Noe, it is that she is all about me. And she is running out of her sunny disposition. Just ask my sweet Sven. As you shuffle and or scroll through the news over your coffee, remember that every classroom, every cause and every party has an apple in it that could spoil the bushel. Not everyone is going to see the worm that is staring you in your face. Neither will you be able to see the spots on your own bananas. The truth never changes. Neither does the world. Take the skinny path to the left and buzz past the sunflower garden. Try the wider path on the right and stop and teeter totter. Or let Rosie help you cross the busy street with her sign. There is more than one way to get to the house on the corner of Rosa and Belin under the willow tree. But caring about our fellow humans is the only key that will actually fit into the one lock that will open the door for all of us to get there. If we could just keep our eyes peeled for that key. And if we could ask our friends to keep searching too. Maybe it will turn up. My mom used to throw in a couple dozen oatmeal with raisin cookies every now and then. She must have needed a day off from saving the world. And baking.