Chapter 1 taken from The Beaten Path by Amy L. Kratz
It may be changed as editing always happens and some things are edited or moved but as it stands now this is it. My brother’s names are changed because I did not have their permission, as will also stand in the book.
In the world, there are givers and takers at age nine, I had not learned which one I was yet to become, but later in life, I would realize definitively which category I would end up. I would learn the most painful and valuable lessens at a very young age. They would propel me through my life, at a harrying rate and I would come to embrace them as some of the best years in my life; even though I would grieve a childhood, stubbornly slog through the most challenging journeys and troublesome emotional times, I would end up a giver.
My brother Matt may have thought that I was a taker when I was a child, because at four years old, a spell was cast over me and I became a very angry child. Matt had a pet bullfrog his King size name was Alexander. He basked quietly in the sun in his aquarium in the windowsill of the attic. I was angry at Matt for some reason which to this day I cannot remember but I decided the only way to pay him back was to exact my revenge.
Yes, at age four this small streak of evil that ran through me as cold as the spring water that ran into Uncle Lester and Aunt Marion’s pond in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t have understood or cared about the reason, I was just a little kid but at times, my temper was uncontrollable. I had a storm inside of me making sense of our new life; yet I could not understand nor did I care to. Later in life, I realized that it was because my mom and dad had split up and everything was different. It was noticeable that he was not around but being four makes you oblivious to what or why you do the things, you do. I am sure I was struggling with that.
I am sure that I wasn’t the only one in the house having a hard time. My brothers Matt and Jason were probably also feeling the effects of his absence even more so than I did, they had actually gotten to know him as their father. I had not had that luxury or maybe it was better that I wasn’t able to know him like he was; because there was a reason we moved away from Pennsylvania and him, actually very good reasons. I know mom felt it too, wondering if she had done the right thing, having to raise three children on her own and dealing with what was probably very lonely and difficult times for her. Some of things I did are so unlike normal loving children that it is shocking to me to think that I did these things although true I am not proud.
It was Amy in the attic with a wench (Amy could not pronounce her RRRRRs). Sad to say Alexander the bulfrog was only supposed to get a small bump on the head but he sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury, unfortunately killing him instantly. As I remember, I only tapped him lightly and walked away not realizing the extent of his injuries. I can truly say that I never meant to kill him. Matt came home later and went to the attic where Alexander lay in the sun, dried, and shriveled his smooth long body, lifeless. I could not apologize enough, to be honest I am not sure I even tried and unfortunately, this for years was a sore topic with us. One we rarely spoke of for obvious reasons; a topic that I was embarrassed about and had feelings of shame over for a long time; no one ever knew that though. I was stubbornly quiet about my feelings especially if I felt as if I was wrong.
The other evil thing I recall besides having tantrums and often yelling at my mother; was that I had devised a very sneaky plan to hit the next-door neighbor’s dog. I somehow had not one ounce of like in my soul for the poodle that bore a similarly grand name as Matt’s frog; the poodle’s name was Sheik. I just disliked this poodle and again today, I could not tell you why. The Faust’s, (the neighbors) loved their poodle and they loved me too, or maybe they grew to love me after I was four and was so terrible. If I recall correctly Sheik made a lot of noise, barking at everything, maybe that was the reason. The dog was pure and innocent although I was not, or at least I didn’t seem to be acting like an innocent child. In fact, I was acting like someone who might grow up to be a serial killer.
I went to the Faust’s porch; which was parallel to ours since we lived in a duplex and Sheik sat there quietly, staring at me with my fist in the air, getting ready to pound him good, on the head. Mom came out and saw me. “Oh no, I was caught”, but quickly I began to dance with my hands in fist going over my head. I was always quick on my feet and a quick thinker, “got out of that one,” I thought. Mom knew the difference; and later in life would reenact my dance moves at family functions. Yes, we all laughed at it and I never touched Sheik except to pet him from that point on.
I guess it’s no wonder Aunt Arden always told mom, “No wonder your kids are so rotten, you laugh at them.” I know that day Sheik was doomed for a Traumatic Brain Injury as well and was saved by Mom. I felt embarrassed that she knew I was going to hit the dog although I would never reveal that either. I would not reveal the shame or embarrassment until this day as I write it for the world to know.
Since then became someone very different it was possible that I learned very valuable lessons from Alexander and Sheik; yet other life lessens would prove telling of my outcome. I became someone who literally fought for justice for the underdog, people, animals and frogs alike, no matter how majestic or un-stately their names may be if they needed defense, I was there to help. I became someone that fought for what should be right in the world. I even defended Paul the boy across the street when I was six; a teenager was bullying him. I punched the teenager and that was the end of that.
I had very little fear of anything I always walked up to people and introduced myself as if I was running for the Mayor of Lewes. I would meet people on the streets and would strike up conversations with them. I liked adults and spent a lot of time around them since I was the baby of the family. I was spoiled. A good reason for both of my brothers not to like me, but somehow they did. In fact, they loved me and were my best friends and wrestling buddies.
So what if they teased me, telling me that I was so ugly when I was a kid that mom and dad had to tie a steak around my neck to get the dog to play with me or that I fell off the turnip truck. Yes, brothers wonderfully love, in their own unique way. It is being able to grapple with how they love you and understand it and somehow I always have known that they do.
We played a funny game that they made up called, Baby Baked Bean. I know it sounds crazy but it went like this: we were all cans of baked beans on a shelf in a grocery store and we pretended that Matt and Jason were trying to protect me from being bought; because of course, I was Baby Baked Bean. Matt and Jason would make up voices and walk us verbally through the game announcing the customers and describing them in detail. They would protect me from being bought by telling me to make myself small, hide behind them, or they would shuffle around as if they were putting themselves in a position on the shelf to be bought instead of me. These games defined how protective they felt about me. It was obvious to me that I was loved well and I felt safe.
The world was also a different place then or so we thought. We trusted people, kept our doors unlocked, and ran around the neighborhood as if we owned the town. It was a time in life where things just seemed simpler than they are today. I felt carefree and we were happy with a game of basketball, jump rope, a pretend game of Baby Baked Bean, homemade baked goods, sitting around the kitchen table with our family and drinking coffee. It was a time when we all seemed happy despite how very little we had. The intrinsic value of family, friends, iced tea on the porch on a hot summer day was priceless.
There came a time in my childhood that would change all of our perceptions about what was valuable to us and we would soon forget how easy times seemed to be. It was 1973 the year that we would learn about who some of the takers in the world were and that there were far more givers than takers. This was the year we would learn to lock our doors. We also learned that we should no longer let our children just run aimlessly through the neighborhood without knowing where they were. This year changed every one of us, in fact in some ways for the better and in others ways for the worse. A little girl who walked to school every day never arrived this year. She had started out on her journey almost the same as every other day although on September 13 she was alone. Life would be different in Lewes after that.