There are more men packing up Grandmother’s china cupboard full of Mommy’s fancy blue dishes. They pack up the green kitchen dishes, the coffee cups and saucers too, the tall ice tea glasses, and even Daddy’s plastic ice cube with the fake fly stuck in it. All the boxes and all the furniture disappear into the big truck Mommy calls a moving van. We pack ourselves and the big red Coca Cola cooler into the blue and white Dodge with fins like a fish and drive, drive, drive.
Up hills, down hills. Past cows and stone farm houses with red barns. Past pastures studded with billboards: Brylcream, “A little dab’ll do ya,” Maxwell House Coffee, “Good to the last drop,” Noxema in the dark blue jar, Ponds Cold Cream like on Mommy’s dresser, and Coppertone Suntan Lotion with a picture of a little girl my size and a puppy pulling off her bathing suit. Through forests and short towns with one stop light, green light and neon signs blinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and Rheingold. Past motels with orange roofs and diners shaped like choo-choo trains. We stop only to picnic by the side of the road on bologna sandwiches, and potato chips. Then more driving, napping, looking out the window until finally we park underneath a white pine towering over a one story house divided in two.
We carry nothing inside our half of the house but one suitcase each and the Coca Cola cooler. Inside is a small kitchen with a huge enamel sink with a built in drain board and a chrome soap dish attached above the faucet. There is a living room with a nubby beige sofa and a bedroom on the other side of the kitchen. At night Mommy pulls a hidden bed out of the sofa for me. She reads my favorite Golden Books: The Little Gray Donkey and Little Yip-Yip, but I feel unsafe, disturbed in a way I can’t name and so far, far away. This is not home, and if it is, I don’t like it.
In the morning there is no Jacky across the street. No Louise for Mommy to have coffee with. Every day after supper we go look at empty houses with Daddy. One has a kitchen the color of Swiss cheese with red counters and matching linoleum. One has a kitchen upstairs. Is the world turning upside down? Another has a pink bedroom Mommy says can be mine even though my favorite color is blue. And she adds there is a tree fort in the mosquitoey backyard that I can buy for only a quarter from Robby Burstein the kid whose parents own the house.
The same red, white and blue van pulls into the driveway of the house with the pink bedroom. There are houses lined up and down little Bentley Road and no cars coming fast over the hill. Mommy says I can cross over without holding her hand. The men in gray jumpsuits put my bed opposite the window in the pink room. Fritz sits in a little rocker next to my Jack and Jill lamp with the night light. I tuck Mary Lou, in her dolly crib in the cubby under the eaves. Mommy tells the men carrying boxes where to put everything while I walk out into the front yard.
An older girl with brown braids and flesh colored cat- eye glasses walks over. She’s wearing a blue sundress with matching bloomers and carries a pitcher of Kool-Aid in one hand and a card table in the other. She tells me to hold the pitcher, and she’ll set up the stand. She says her name is Jade Tuthill. Her dad is the channel six weather man, and she can make the change because she’s going into fourth grade. Can I pour the Kool-Aid into Dixie cups?
Ross and Polly Mulligan ride their trikes across the road right away. I pour two paper cups and Jade puts their nickels into a Dutch Masters cigar box. Peter Snell rides his two-wheeler from the end of the street, and I pour more Kool-Aid. Carol and Ellen Thompson walk over from the house on the corner. Carol wears a green flowered shorts set. Her big sister Ellen is barefoot and wears Brownie shorts and a dirty white T-shirt. These are my new playmates. They smile, but I am an outsider. Nothing is the same here except Mommy and Daddy.
Before summer’s end, Mommy and Daddy take me to the toy store and buy a blue wagon and a new doll I name Angela. She has curly red hair and a pink dress with poofy petticoats. We put the wagon in the way back of our new black Ford station wagon. I comb Angela’s hair while Daddy drives downtown. We park behind a fancy stone building. A strange lady brings out a little boy with brown hair who won’t let go of his red tricycle. We add his trike to the way back, and he sits next to me in the back seat all the way to the house with the pink bedroom.
All afternoon the new boy pulls the blue wagon with his trike up and down Bentley Road. And all afternoon I sit in the wagon and comb Angela’s hair. Before supper the little boy parks his red tricycle in our garage. He sits across from me at the dinner table. He puts on his pajamas when I put on my pajamas. Mommy tucks him in first in a bedroom at the end of the hall next to hers. I lie in my bed hugging Fritz, listening to the new noises outside my window, the crickets chirping in the mosquitoey back yard, the jug-a-rum of frogs in the drainage ditch, and the sobbing of the little boy at the end of the hall. Does he feel unsafe, disturbed, so far, far away? Can he name it? He is only four, and I am six and a half. Does he know this is home even if he doesn’t want it to be? Mommy says he is my new brother, but he didn’t even smile. Does he feel like an outsider? For him, not even Mommy and Daddy are the same.