As children, my sister and I used to spend part of our summers with an Aunt and Uncle on their farm. I don’t remember much about the actual farm. I remember there was a barn and that makes me think that there were horses but I don’t actually remember the horses themselves. Just the barn. And playing in the hayloft. I don’t remember if they grew anything in particular either but I remember shucking corn which again makes me think that there might have been a corn field. But I might be remembering another family that had a corn field. Those earlier memories all seem to run together so I’m not sure if I’m remembering one thing or just some weird amalgam of memories pressed together between the years and the distance between them.
There was a forested hill though. I remember because we used to play up in it. It was at the start of their driveway when you first turned in to the farm from the road. It was the last of the landmarks that let me know that we had arrived. That hill was magical to me. I loved going to the Farm even though it meant that I’d probably earn a spanking.
My aunt and uncle were a lot stricter than my parents were. My father only ever beat me once and that was after the first (and only) time I ever used the f-word in front of him. In my memory that beating is almost comical. Him chasing me, wildly swinging, screaming at me to never use that language in front of him again and me tearfully promising that I wouldn’t as I was chased up the stairs and to my room.
My aunt and uncle were different.
I remember living in fear of making them mad. My Aunt wasn’t slow with the punishment if you did something wrong. But this was back in the 70s and still the time of playing outside without needing adult supervision so it was pretty easy to avoid the adults if you wanted to. And I wanted to. The farm was enormous in my memory. You could spend hours up in the woods. And I probably did.
Though you’d better come running when they called for lunch or dinner.
I shared a room with my cousin when we stayed over. I was on the bottom bunk. He was on the top. I always wanted to be on the top but I was told that I was too young. And I probably was. Sometimes I peed the bed. And I imagine the prospect of being on the bottom bunk under those conditions might be somewhat harrowing. In my defense though a lot of young kids pee the bed. And I had another reason for wetting the sheets. After getting beaten once for being up after lights out I wasn’t sure what the rules were. Could I get out of bed if I had to go to the bathroom? I was so scared of my aunt that I didn’t chance it and I didn’t dare ask in case the question was considered “giving her lip”. So I peed the bed which oddly enough never earned me a beating.
My cousin had a toy Star Trek communicator that I coveted. I always wanted to play with it. I always wanted to see it. It was big and weighty. Solid in a way that the toys of today are not. I don’t remember actually watching Star Trek but I loved the toys. Space ships and phasers. I had one of those disc guns that was later taken off the market due to it being considered a choking hazard. And I played with it till I lost all the discs. (I suspect my sister actually stole the discs and who could blame her? As the primary target of all of my attention I’d probably have stolen them myself if I were her.)
That communicator though was my Grail. It made authentic noises. It looked like the real thing. I would do anything for that communicator. And my cousin knew it. Sometimes he would have me help him with one of his chores dangling the communicator like tantalizing bait. Sometimes he would just get me to leave him alone. I’m sure the attention and idolization of a six year old could be overwhelming. And sometimes he would sit on the edge of the lower bunk and take down his pants.
I didn’t know that there was anything wrong about what he did. Sometimes he just played with himself. And sometimes he asked me to touch it. And sometimes he asked me to lick it. “What does it taste like?” “It tastes weird.” I didn’t think it was horrible or abusive. And I don’t think it warped or changed the way that I think about sex as an adult. I don’t think I thought of it as sexual at all. I don’t even think I knew what sex was yet. I just knew that afterward I was going to get to play with the communicator.
But now… sometimes when I see a Star Trek communicator I just start tearing up. And I’m not even sure why. I don’t feel like anything is broken or anything was stolen from me. Those woods don’t seem any less magical in my memories or my Aunt any less terrifying. I still look back at those trips to the farm with a certain fondness. I don’t even have any hatred or anger directed toward my cousin.
Sometimes I feel like I should. But I don’t.
I’ve looked hard and deep for it. But it’s not there. It is so far in the past now. Pressed between my memories like a leaf between the pages of a book.
I wonder though if that is why I have always preferred Star Wars.