Radio Diaries: When Everything Changed

Jan 13, 2017

I grew up with a neighborhood gang of about a dozen boys and girls, all ages.  We played together every night after dinner and when a vacant lot became a construction site, we made a game out of it—dividing into teams, each side trying to keep the other from climbing out of the hole in the ground.

The hole was deep and it was hard climbing up the sides—and all the while, your opponent was dancing along the edge, waiting to shove you back down.

Jim Brown was the biggest kid in our group with a brush cut and wide smile.  When I scrambled out of the basement hole, he tackled me and we fell to the ground.  And as I struggled to escape, I was suddenly aware of Jim’s arms around me, the feel of his body against mine.

I was twelve years old and had watched many romantic movies, curious about what happened when people embraced.  Now I knew.  It was thrilling—and terrifying.  I leapt out of Jim’s arms and hollered, “Free!”  He laughed and my team came forward to declare victory.

“Everything changed in that moment,” I said, telling this story to my son-in-law.

“You can bet Jim was oblivious,” he said.

“Oh, I suppose he was,” I said.  When people embraced, everything didn’t change for everyone.