Some have accused me of being stubborn. But I say, determined. As long as I can remember, accomplishing my goal took precedence over punishment, eating, sleeping, or spending time with people. The reason is a mystery but the memories are clear.
Phoenix, Arizona 1968
Barry stood on the narrow rail of our brown picket fence that encompassed the backyard. Curiosity drove me there. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to walk the rail, all the way around without falling off.” He walked a few steps, lost his balance and jumped down. Then he climbed back up and walked a short distance more before jumping down again.
The challenge began. “I want to try.”
“It’s hard,” he huffed. “You have to keep one foot on the rail while swinging the other foot over the pointed part. If you start to fall, jump inside the yard or you’ll have to walk around the house to get back in the gate. You have to start over every time you fall or it won’t count. But I’m not helping you; I’m going to ride my bike.” He rushed away.
He had a way of showing me these things then leaving, but I watched him. One foot on the bottom fence rail, pull up to the top rail and balance before standing up all the way, but I lost my balance and had to jump down. Climbed again, stood still, lifted my foot, wobbled a little, then swung my foot over the pointed picket and onto the rail. Feeling proud, I moved forward with confidence and speed until I fell into the yard and had to start over.
At the first turn, I lost my balance and had to jump into the alley, but it wasn’t scary. Barry and I sometimes sneaked down it to treasure hunt in the neighbors trash cans. Once, I came home with a lime green, “Jolly Green Giant” rug—cut in the shape of a bare foot. Momma let me keep it, but that was the end of treasure hunting. The roadside of the yard, however, did frighten me—someone might try to steal me. Drawing a deep breath for courage, I glanced both ways on the street then ran to the front yard and safety to started over.
Teetering a little, I returned to the alley corner with Momma shouting from the backdoor, “Phyllis, get down from there, before you fall and get hurt.” Frustrated, I jumped inside the yard and waited for her to close the door. My new goal—make it around before Momma catches me. Nearing the roadside turn, a stranger approached and I jumped, rushing back to the gate. The road stayed clear. After rounding the last corner, I jumped down victorious over the fence and Momma.