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Elephant

The day we left Jimmy, my elephant followed me. That day in May we all walked out of the house on Thurston Avenue — the house my sister says is not at the top of a T-intersection — and we climbed in the car.

Grey, velvety

matthewsrdhouse-3-copy

M-60 at Matthews Road

Since I had no idea of not seeing Jimmy or my elephant again, I didn’t think about them. My elephant was grey and velvety. I played with Jimmy during the day, and I slept with my elephant at night.

As my dad drove us south from Racine, Wisconsin, I dozed off. While I slept, we curved east around the foot of Lake Michigan, up through a corner of Indiana, and into Michigan. Here we followed M-60 almost to Jackson, and many hours after we left Racine, I woke up just outside the village of Spring Arbor. It was May of 1945.

Stone Style

Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church Building

We went into the house at the corner of Matthews Road, with its porch and chimney that Mr. George Robinson covered in stone. Mr. Robinson used the same style of stone to cover the Free Methodist church building and parsonage at the head of the U on the corner of Cottage Street in Spring Arbor and the Gallagher’s porch at the bottom of the U.

No dishes, no food

The kitchen had no dishes and no food, so we finished the sandwiches and apples Mom packed in Racine. The closets had no clothing, and the bedrooms had no beds. But the living room floor had a carpet, so we spread sheets and laid ourselves out like corpses at a tragedy — and without my elephant.

Nobody told

Nobody told this 3-year-old why we were suddenly impoverished or why my elephant was not there, wrapped in my arms. I was deeply concerned. Yet the older ones didn’t seem bothered, so that night I did not cry.

In the morning the mystery still surrounded me until a moving van pulled up and unloaded our furniture, clothes, dishes — and my elephant.


Thanks to Chuck Tomasello for the picture of the house and to Howard Snyder for the picture of the church building.

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