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Life in Hilltop Manor

May 2, 2013

Virginia Beach, Virginia was a great place to live for me (9 to 12 years old); we lived in a place called Hilltop Manor which was a housing development surrounded by woods and farms (all now absorbed by development I’m sure) with lots of opportunity for the three of us to get in all manner of ‘adventures’ throughout the year.  Our house was on 300 Mable Lane (the things that you remember…) and our neighborhood was filled with military families, so we had those with whom we could identify in terms of understanding the ‘moving every three to four years’ thing.  It amazed me how even with that restriction on how long we would be in a place, we still managed to form attachments (even with kids from civilian families who stayed in one place for much longer…how boring is that!).

My first experimentation with electricity happened here (also almost my last) as my Dad had a toolshed/storage building that was at one end of our carport.  In it Dad kept all his tools and various magical and mysterious items that I longed to know what they all did.  One day I discovered that the tool shed door was unlocked, so being a naturally curious child, I walked in and began poking around.  I found a pair of wire cutters and quickly found a likely looking wire (not realizing it was plugged in!) and thought to see how good the wire cutters could cut through the wire.  The song, You Light Up My Life, comes to mind for what happened next as the shock paralyzed my arm so I could not let go and sparks flew until the breaker for that circuit opened.  I ran from the tool room with blisters on my palm and fingers, but thankfully nothing worse than a scalded curiosity.  When Dad got home from the base, he quickly discovered the damage done to the wire (it was the power cord to a table saw) and asked the three of us who had done the dirty deed.  None of us fessed up (I’m pretty sure he knew as Mom had probably told him about my mysterious injury) and he told us that he was pretty sure the guilty party would never play with his tools again (boy was he right on that!).

We attended John B. Dey Elementary school and it was here that I first experienced what was to known as the school bully; his name escapes me, but he was a continuous source of trouble for me as I was a bit of a runt then and easy pickings.  I had one teacher who at first did look out for me and acted as my protector, but one day when the monster had been pushing me around, she (the teacher) had come up behind him and pulled him off of me and then turned to me and asked me, “When are you going to learn to defend yourself!?!”  The hurt and dismay at this protector now being mad at me is a feeling I can still recall; I’m not sure why she said what she said, but it was something that had me feeling less trustful of any authority figure for many years.

In the woods bordering the housing development there were all manner of neat places to play, our imaginations taking flight as we dared great things and endured great suffering (at least until it was time to go home for lunch or supper) in our battles.  During the winter when it snowed, we would take our sled into the woods as there was one particular hill with a winding path that ended in a small ski-slope looking hillock next to a small stream.  Our challenge (“I dare you!”) was to maneuver through the trees and then, hopefully having retained enough speed) launch from the end of the path over the stream and land safely on the other side.  It worked most of the time and when it didn’t our long-suffering Mom would shake her head at how three boys could get themselves so wet during the winter playing outside.  There was also an old cemetery in those same woods; one of the graves had some form of moss growing in it that was phosphorescent and would glow nicely at night.  Our ‘initiation’ was to spend time sitting in that particular grave (with those in charge out of sight making all manner of ‘spooky’ noises). 

During the summer we enjoyed ourselves immensely chasing the county mosquito truck around the area, running through the fog of DDT it sprayed (yeah, that’s right, we ran inside the cloud of this toxic substance, breathing it in deeply as we ran).  One time as I ran along, unable to see more than a foot or so, I ran into a guy wire for one of the telephone poles.  It  caught me in the neck (one kid running beside me said that I almost wound up parallel to the ground) and I wound up flat on my back unsure if I was alive or not.  Someone ran and told Melvin (my older brother) what had happened, reporting that I’d had my head torn off!  Melvin ran back to see for himself (hoping for the best…whatever his idea of ‘best’ would be) and seemed disappointed that my only apparent injury was some bruising.

While I’d learned to ride my bicycle while living in Great Lakes (I’ll tell you about that some other time), it was while we lived in Virginia Beach that we really began to use those magnificent steeds to travel all over the area.  It still amazes me how innocent we were to the dangers inherent in such activity, but whether a overly busy guardian angel sent by a loving God or perhaps a different world than we live in today (or a combination of both?), nothing ever happened to us.  My only injury while riding my bike was when I spilled one day, scrapping along the road on my back resulting in severe abrasions all over my back.  I ran SCREAMING home (about a half mile), entering the house wanting Mom to ‘fix it’ and take the pain away.  She took one look at my back and calmly led me to the bathroom and removed the tattered remnants of my shirt.  She then got out a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and poured it over my back; the resulting scream may have set off earthquake detection equipment all over the globe!

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