In my first story, My Mother's Poodle, I was age eleven. This time I'll share one from my twelfth year. I grew up in Pittsburg, Ca. I have four brothers and no sisters. My father and mother were and are still together - 59 years strong. For fun, on weekends our entire family used to go for hikes up at the Black Diamond Mines park.
The Black Diamond Mines park is beautiful, historic, and one of my all time favorite places to visit. Even though I live half a continent away, I still feel myself drawn to it. Inside the park, up a winding dirt road, is Rose Hill Cemetery. My father insisted we always visit the cemetery to pay our respects before heading out to explore the trails. He was and still is a stickler for respecting both the living and the dead. Anything other than 'Yes, Sir.' when told to do something, or in answer to a question could earn a backhand across the mouth for disrespect. Heaven forbid a kid should backtalk or curse at/in the presence of an adult, especially a lady. That will earn you a belt across the backside.
One weekend, I and my youngest brother, two years younger than I, sprinted off ahead of everyone to the cemetery. We were around the curve and out of sight of the rest of my family when we reached the cemetery. Instead of being respectful as taught, my brother and I tore around the place like hooligans. We were vaulting over headstones and trampling graves with little care or respect. I'm not quite sure what happened, but suddenly my brother stopped and said, "I'm feelin' weird. I'm going to go down to Mom and Dad."
I shrugged it off, but I kind of noticed it felt off too. Like the air was heavier suddenly. I stopped running around like a wild child and wandered around a bit, reading what headstones I could, wondering about the people who were buried there. After a few minutes, I started to get creeped out. It was very quiet and still. Normally you can hear the wind blowing, hear the insects buzzing. I didn't hear any of that. Even though I was in full sunlight, I felt like I was standing in the shade. Just as I was about to head back to the road and hopefully my family, I heard a girl's giggle. I looked around expecting to see someone else hanging out. I didn't see anyone, but I heard it again, further away, heading towards the mountain side, opposite from the gate and the road where my parents were.
I actually followed the sound. It repeated two more times, each time a little further away, like it was moving to the back gate. I didn't think about not going, not following. I just did. Cliche I know, but honestly? It never occurred to me that it wasn't another kid. I was curious and I wanted to play, hang out, maybe make a friend.
I was almost to the back gate of the cemetery when someone grabbed my arm, hard. I looked around, startled, only to find my father, huffing and puffing next to me. He was flushed and sweating, he'd obvious run to catch me. My father is not affectionate, nor is he easy to rattle. He is more a 'spare the rod' type of parent and very stoic. I think it comes from him being a POW in Vietnam. He didn't yell, he didn't smack me. Instead he pulled me into a hug and practically carried me out of the cemetery and down the hill. Once we were down the hill he asked me - very shakily, like an old man - what the hell I thought I was doing following a white witch.
I told him I didn't see any 'white witch.' I was just looking for the girl who was in the cemetery. I kept hearing her laugh and wanted to find out what was so funny. My dad said he saw her, a woman made of a floating white mist, leading me away and very emphatically told me that it was no kid, and what she wanted was definitely not funny. The next day he carved a simple wood pendent out of the heart of a redwood and had my uncle do something to it, and then insisted I wear it any time we went up there. There were other things that happened there, but I never heard the girl giggle again, nor did I see the 'white witch.' My oldest brother did though, and it scared him bad enough that he actually left the state to get away from it. That isn't my story though, it's his.
I still don't know what the pendent was supposed to do, but I still have it, and when I stroke it, I still feel my fathers love and a feeling of safety, just as I did when he hugged me on that day.
I have zero excuses for my disrespectful behavior except being a disobedient kid. I can't even say I was a stupid kid, because my father always taught us to respect, and I chose not to. I knew it was wrong to behave that way, so I guess I kind of got what I deserved.
In this case, as in most of my life lessons, my father knows best.