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Thursday, September 23, 2004

West Texas snapshot

Odd news. I found out tonight that the child of a schoolmate of mine in high school just died. For the family's privacy, I won't link to the obituary. I don't know how he died. But I was startled to see his picture, a smiling 10-year-old boy. He looked just like his dad, who was a friend of mine. He looked just like his dad when he was a baby all shrunk up in the baby swing. I remember sitting on a couch in his mom's trailer house, pushing the swing back and forth with my foot while drinking a beer and watching "Beavis and Butthead", waiting for my friends to finally decide what we were going to do that night. I was 17 years old, and just about to get the hell out of Alpine for the rest of my life.

I remember when we first found out that his mom was pregnant with him, gosh, 11 years ago. The dad was the older brother of one of my very best friends. He christened me Queen of the Nerd Herd for my notorious braininess and bookishness. We were so furious with him--his girlfriend was not yet 15 years old. My friend, his sister, looked sad and hangdog for weeks. Eventually she just quit fretting. After all, what difference does it make? The couple's relationship was over before she started to show.

Gosh, I make it sound like I'm total white trash. Hardly. We had a big, nice, middle class home and I was in the top 5 of my class. But Alpine is small and poor and the middle class didn't shelter itself from the poor as neatly as they do elsewhere. Contrary to media images of it, trailer parks are not cesspools of hopelessness. We spent all sorts of time in the trailer park at friends' houses and all sorts of times in my big backyard. High school is all about hanging out.

Anyway, I remember her being pregnant. She was shy to begin with, and she just withdrew even more. I barely had a chance to speak to her much; she was a high school freshman and I was a senior tracking my way out of town and into college. High school is the time when even people you liked drift away if you are heading to different places in life. I was heading towards college and sophistication, dinner dates in high heels with wine served; she had 3 children before she was 18, if I recall. We weren't great friends to begin with, but we were friendly. But those sort of things just disappear. I would see her in the hallways hobbling along; at barely 5 ft. tall if that, she was all stomach towards the end and had to be helped out of chairs.

I have no idea how this boy died; I imagine it was an accident. The obituary says that his mom was married and had moved away, which raised hope in my heart. I remember looking around the desolate roads of Alpine and knowing that I was going to the world past that and no one could stop me. I remember those I knew who looked out and saw the world that was theirs from here to whenever and wondering if they minded. Maybe not. It's hard for me to believe they didn't wonder.

I have a frog in my throat. I don't know what snatched this child away, but I know his mother and I know that she is 24 years old. Not that losing a child is easy at any age, but god, what it must be like to have had three and buried one before seeing 25 years old.

I don't know what the point of this is. Maybe just a reminder to everyone that reality is there, always taunting us and threatening to invade our carefully constructed lives.

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