Growing Up Juju (part 4 in a series)


Juju was crouched behind a Sycamore tree, breathing heavy. The neighborhood kids were playing hide-n-seek and she liked to believe she excelled at the game. She had a game strategy of changing locations every 5 minutes or so….a moving target was harder to find she thought. Juju loved the game, hiding in the darkened spaces between the houses on Oak Street. Even at seven, she didn’t scare easy and could outlast the older kids that were looking for her…she was very competitive.

Even though it was about 9:30 p.m., the kids in the neighborhood were all playing outside on a hot night in July. At least they had a slight breeze and most of the time that was better than inside. Juju’s house did not have central air conditioning. Her parents had a small window unit in the living room and one in the master bedroom. Doors were left open throughout the house with the hope that the cool air would circulate, but that didn’t work out too well. Hot, sticky kids preferred to run around like little banshee outside rather than play G.I. Joe in their stifling rooms.

Juju had her two six-shooters in her holster, loaded with red caps. She was going to scare the heck out of anyone that came close to her hiding spot. Her older sister Junene was crafty and sometimes she got the other kids to just stop looking for Juju…to stop playing the game. One night Juju had hidden in the bushes at the Swenson’s house next door for an entire hour before she figured out the joke was on her. She was ready for that this time…having positioned herself where she could see her sister sitting on the front porch of their house. Not this time she thought…the joke is going to be on someone else, as she cocked one her pistols and eagerly awaited her hunter.

Juju’s mother opened up the front door of her house and yelled for her to come inside quickly! What? And spoil my great ambush? Juju heard her sister respond to their mother, “it is not 10pm yet!”
“I don’t care!” came the reply from their mother…”get in this house this instant, history is happening!!”
It was July 20, 1969 and Neil Armstrong was opening the hatch door of the Apollo 11 capsule. Juju holstered the pistol and begrudgingly ran next door to her shouting mother, the ambush would have to wait until tomorrow night’s game.

Juju and Junene took their usual places, laying on pillows on the green sculptured carpet of their living room floor. Juju’s parents were in their appointed chairs, already watching the grainy black and white images from so far away in space, none of them could comprehend the distance. Chairs and a place to sit in a large family were scarce in the household. Juju’s family had a “rule of the house” that had solved the problem years before. If your rear-end was in a seat and you wanted to leave the room to say…go to the restroom…and you wanted that seat back when you returned…the rule applied. The person had to shout the word “cabbage” before their rear-end lifted off the seat..not after…and only then was that seat secured until their return. Juju knew and loved rules early on…she loved structure. She also knew that all rules generally have exceptions. The Cabbage Rule had one exception…Juju’s parents could have any seat they wanted at any moment. It was a good rule.

Juju layed there on the carpet with her eyes glued to the TV console. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Juju’s mother explained what that meant as they watched Armstrong’s feet hit the lunar surface. “Pay attention and watch this and you will remember it the rest of your life,” her mother said. Juju secretly wished she was watching the Carol Burnett Show, but this seemed important to everyone, so she watched intently. After a while when the news reporters were talking back and forth Juju stood up and begged for 30 more minutes outside until bedtime. Juju’s older sister Joan yelled “cabbage!” and got up to go get a drink out of the fridge. Her father barked for everyone to settle down or get out…Juju took that as her cue and ran back out the front door to the steps of the porch.

Sitting her bottle of Coke down beside her on the stoop, Juju looked upward. There it was in all it’s glory…a full moon. The moon was lighting up her block so brightly that night that Juju could see her neighbors Robbie and Rita and their kids standing in their front yard. They were lighting sparklers and waving them around along with miniature American flags. This was kind of like the 4th of July a couple of weeks ago Juju thought. She squinted her eyes and tried with all her might to see any movement or humans on the face of the moon.

Juju didn’t see Neil Armstrong, but she thought that she could see the face of Jackie Gleason across the full white expanse of the moon’s surface. Straight to the Moon Alice!, she yelled. At that moment the back door of her father’s Cadillac opened up and out popped Dennis, a kid from up the block. “Is the game over,” he asked? Juju started to laugh uproariously and danced about the yard…she fired an entire box of caps into the sky on that long ago July night.

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3 responses to “Growing Up Juju (part 4 in a series)

  1. I was just telling a friend about our “cabbage” rule a week ago. Dad could have any chair he wanted but he too always enjoyed shouting out “cabbage” when he got up.

  2. Reblogged this on Dyke in the Heart of Texas and commented:

    I re-blog this today in memory of Neil Armstrong who died today.

  3. What a wonderful story teller you are Julya – thank you for sharing your version of this amazing memory. Truly, I would buy any book you would choose to write.

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