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(written spring of 1993)

Her chubby cheeks are flushed – partly with the heat of the day and partly with the frustration welling inside of her. Her eyes squint at me as if they could crush me by forcing them so close together. She is pouting because I have taken the red popsicle again.

But she knows I hate the purple popsicles that taste of anything but grapes and the green popsicles that look like caterpillars squished on the sidewalk and the orange popsicles that smell like the medicine we take. So what does that leave me?

Besides, it’s one of the privileges of being older. Leaving the maple-wood crib and the little girl carpet that leaves lint on shorts and pink impressions on legs when you sit down. Moving into the sunshine room of soft buttery yellow carpeting that has a big-girl bed with its funny patchwork comforter. Sitting in a proper grown-up chair and drinking from a proper grown-up cup while I try ever so hard not to spill it with small clumsy hands. Riding my fire engine red tricycle all the way to the fire at the corner. Saying “beau-ti-ful” and “dar-ling” and “thirty-one o three” (having graduated from three-one-zero-three).

I get to choose which flavor popsicle I have.

Today it is so hot we are allowed two popsicles each. It is summer – some time in summer, although neither of us have yet entered that vague institution called “school” and neither of us have memory of any such thing as winter or imagination of any life other than days of heavy heat and little shade with a mild aroma of dandelions and wild clover wafting from the empty lot across the street on the occasional breeze. Every day is any summer day, so long as the sun bursts hot and fierce over the trees.

The grass is pale green, but greener, almost shamrock green, in places where we have played in the water sprinkler. Mommy’s garden is flowering- this year will give us zucchini and pumpkins and those funny yellow gourd shaped tomatoes.

We have played all day (including trying to make tomato juice from green tomatoes) though it is only early afternoon and my restless little mind wonders what we will do next. I glance over at her. She has let half of one of her green popsicles melt into a sticky swirled pool on the concrete step that is our back porch and now she had decided to stuff the other half into a mouth that is not nearly large enough.

The orange swingset – an orange of maple leaves in autumn – has traveled miles, won the Indy 500 twice, and been thoroughly watered today. The double seated swing has carried two fine ladies through a faery tale land they cannot name. The swinging see-saw, each side, has been a race car – each of the drivers thinking she’s going fastest, trying forever to catch up to the other. The sprinkler has been set on the plain metal slide to transform it into a water toboggan ride like the one at the public pool where the big kids get to go. When mudholes form under our toboggan, our little arms tug and push the swingset into a new position.

I am thinking about her now. Earlier, I was sitting in a miniature folding chair throne with multi-colored strips of fabric (that are really precious jewels), wearing my shimmery pale green queen bathing suit, with the frustrated hum of wheels that cannot carry their owners fast enough on the highway as my orchestra. My court jester was, in her frilly purple swimsuit (purple, for she would wear no other color), twisting and grabbing to mount the royal steed – a beau-ti-ful black Labrador named Mandy who for some reason beyond us didn’t like being ridden.

As I watch that little girl now, however, as she frowns at a small piece green ice that will not stay in her tiny mouth, I cannot see that court jester.

I cannot see, either, the two fine ladies, but where could they have disappeared to? And the race car drivers. Where did they go?

I see a four year old little girl with skin tanned dark from the Cherokee blood that tans my skin, too, and slightly bleached soft brown hair that is not yet as long as mine staring unhappily at the other side of a double – green – popsicle.

These thoughts are troubling for me, a six year old who won’t complain about having a sister since she provides the convenience of a live-in playmate. Even more troubling to me, now, is looking down at the untouched half of the red popsicle I’d been hoarding and realizing that a hand that looks very much like the one attached to the end of my arm reaches out and replaces the green popsicle in my sister’s hand with the red one in my own.