Every day a little boy named Jimmy came to our house. We dug holes in the sand and ran through the grass and told each other our secrets. Jimmy and I were both three years old.
The little boy in the picture reminds me of Jimmy, and this little house reminds me of our house where Jimmy and I played. I remember that house so clearly sitting at the top of a T-intersection. Small, with a dark roof and a tiny front porch. I was three, and my sister Mimi was thirteen.
Trouble is, I was telling Mimi about this early memory, and she told me there was no such house. She said our house at 2000 Thurston Avenue in Racine, Wisconsin, didn’t look like that at all and was not at any T-intersection. I was not sure how to feel about my oldest sister squashing my oldest memory, but I got over it.
Mimi remembered Jimmy. And my mother remembered Jimmy because she was taking care of him to help with the budget.
I loved telling Jimmy my secrets because they made him laugh. But one day when his back was turned I tried telling Jimmy something, and he didn’t pay attention. So I told him again. When I still got nothing back from Jimmy, I yelled at him. Then I screamed at him.
It took many tries, but finally I realized Jimmy did not hear. He didn’t hear me or anything else. Jimmy could not hear.
I ran into the kitchen and grabbed my mother’s knees.
“Mommy! Jimmy can’t hear! Jimmy can’t hear!”
I buried my face in my mother’s skirt and shook her knees with my sobs.
“Jimmy can’t hear, Mommy! Mommy? Mommy, Jimmy can’t hear!”
A few months later, we left Jimmy behind. We moved to Michigan, and I never saw him again.
At 75, I’m almost as deaf as Jimmy when we were three. I still wonder where Jimmy digs holes in the sand, who shares his secrets. And I wonder how he helped to shape the little boy who sobbed on his mother’s knees because his friend couldn’t hear.