Aunt Mary lived in Pittsburgh. It always seemed like a big trip. "We're going to the city."
Back in those days of my youth, it took a good hour to an hour-and-a-half to drive from the country to the city. Road congestion was a nightmare along the busy highway stretch of Route 22. Not like today with our four-lane highway. Back then, you tried to skirt the main thorough-way and stick to as many back roads as you could during the rush hour times. But it made no difference, time-wise, if every other motorist had the same exact idea.
The many cars my mother drove to take us there. The one I remember the most is the grey Vega. The compact car with 4 seats and if our family of five went anywhere in it, I curled on a blanket in the open trunk space. The smells of kids and McDonald's chicken Mcnuggets bouncing along the bumpy road until we hit the East Busway at the Monroeville entrance that lead us the rest of the way into Pittsburgh.
To Aunt Mary's house. We had many different frights and adventures there. If I remember correctly, her house used to be a store converted into a residence. The house sat on this big, small hill. Sounds like an oxymoron, or you think I'M an oxymoron for describing it this way. But the house sat on its own little mound of high dirt, which made the front yard slope down to the fence and sidewalk.
Anyway, as I delve into the foggy memories of this house, I remember at the back where the kitchen sat was a sliding metal door. You know the ones where the delivery truck would pull up to, as the worker stepped onto the cement ledge and opened the back to unload the shipment. The house was like this. All strange and fascinating and spooky rolled up into one big ball of faded memories.
This particular story will focus on the outside of the house. Why? Because a kid can find as much trouble to get into outside as well as inside.
Near Aunt Mary's house, and another reason why we visited, was the fascinating things outside that we found on the sidewalk. Glass.
This wasn't empty beer bottle glass. These were CHUNKS of glass littering the sidewalk like diamonds scattered in a forgotten mine. We had no idea how they got there. A story I remember from someone was that the glass came from a recycling center. The trucks ran during the night, bouncing along with tarps on, and occasionally a piece would bounce out and land on the sidewalk. If the image of a man walking along the sidewalk at night, getting his head split open by a piece of glass, entered your mind--that was the very first image (an image I continually have) regarding that particular story.
Anyway, my sister, brother and myself would take short strolls along the sidewalk down to the sloping bridge whenever we wanted to get out of the spooky house. We headed along, our mother's warning about NOT messing with any of the sparkling glass on the cement, ringing in our ears.
But there was this one piece. It caught the rays of sunlight during the noon hour, creating a rainbow on its surface. It looked like a large diamond with its many facets. My sister spotted it with all warnings that sharp glass just might be too dangerous to pick up flying from her head. She reached down and grabbed that glass, cutting open her palm.
Now this was my big sister. She had six more years to my eight-year-old existence. And sometimes little, but still big, kids do things we don't expect.
My sister didn't let out a scream. She didn't even cry. She released a surprised "ouch" of pain and carefully shifted the piece of glass to her other hand. We inspected the cut, mini-doctors examining the wound and giving our theories of treatment. We speculated she may need stitches. We had to go to our mother and hear her reprimand about not listening to her.
But my sister wasn't leaving that piece of glass. Like any intrepid treasure hunter who scoffs at the legends that certain treasure may contain a terrible curse, she kept that piece of glass. She asked for a tissue from my pocket, since I always carried extra tissues do to my sinus allergies, and we carefully wrapped the glass up.
My brother solemnly carried it as we walked back to Aunt Mary's house, my sister ready for the chiding with a serene demeanor that some things were well-worth a small moment of childlike shame.