It was 1959. We currently lived in Whittier, California where I was born in 1951. My father had punched holes in the walls one last time and had gone away. It was nearly Christmas and I wanted a football. So I licked and pasted all of my mother’s S & H Green Stamps into the little green stamp redemption booklets until I had exact how many I needed. I stuffed the books in my pockets and exited the small apartment located on Whittier Blvd where my mother, brother and I recently became tenants. This would be the first of many places. I crossed a very busy street for an eight year old, but I was on a mission and knew how to get to the Sears store in the shopping center that was visible from our apartment.
I do not remember today the act of finding the right department and actually purchasing the football, but I do remember getting home with that incredible piece of pig skin. I also have no recollection of the thought or person or process that brought me to ‘I must have that football’. Even at eight years of age, I was a capable force of nature and tyrannically bodacious. I threw fits, I screamed and ran from anyone who was trying to corral me. I do not remember being mean or out of touch, just plain batshit crazy.
My life had been ravaged from the divorce. I believe I was five years old, perhaps six when the end came into focus. I became a latch key kid. The neighbor lady on the corner was our friend and she pitched in and helped my mother between end of school and her return from work. Our family was over. Whatever that meant. All I know is I became stronger and although I was still my normal talkative and occasionally delightful child, I was spinning on a different level. This is where I began becoming the middle child. I took care of myself.
I tried to keep my brother Danny in line. He was different and did not act out like me. He was, and is, pretty secretive. He would agree to stay in the house until mom was home and then he’d go to his room, open the window and he was gone. There was an avocado grove at the end of our street. The parents in the neighborhood told the children to stay out because there were bears in there. So Danny climbed the end of the road fence and disappeared into the veiled world of the grove. He emerged in a few minutes and reported there were no bears. He was the one who could say one thing and then do whatever he wanted with no guilt. It did not matter to me. He was the only other person who walked through everything with me. Leave no one behind. I loved him then and I love him to this very day. I can say what I want about him but no one else, no one, would dare speak poorly of Dan in front of me!
~ Thomas Sheffield, 2018