on secondhand childhoods :: by years (& fears) – by Jen Schneider

generations often lament traditions lost to time & circumstance. cuckoo clocks tick while caviar & salted lox age. new life generates new ways of being. wheels turn on axles while rubber burns. from slang to sledgehammers. texts to tunes. favored jargon to juicy fruit. lyly suggests that all is fair in love & war. yet lilies languish in meadows stomped of leather boots & bridles. reins both push & pull. in small pockets of air where love blends with war & war bleeds of love, time tangoes as fingers wave. not always waves welcome. not all mangoes are sweet. not all traits are fair. not all childhoods are first rate. milk crates stock & store fuel that sours. penny candy stores sell lemon balls at a premium. shelves boast second-hand calls while ladders caution. no space for falls. as the earth orbits the sun & the moon shines in cycles, seasons turn. small children inhale, then yawn eager for dawn & days of yesteryear. expanding lungs exhale. persist. grow accustomed to fear. tears of salt bleed on tattered fabrics. stained plaid jackets. moth-eaten wools. properly chilled. fuzzy lavender fabrics. specks & spots of rainbows on virgin whites. ankles brush denim cut-offs. off-brand overalls brandish airs & heirs. life a lesson in persistence amidst growth beneath weeping willow trees. there are many ways (& reasons) to disguise a second-hand childhood. buy two. get one free. no tipping needed. ready. set. get. seize. 

12 (+) reasons (& ways) to disguise a second-hand childhood :: by year (& fear)

Year 1 :: the jury drops judgment within minutes of reveal. apgar scores strong. appetite off.

Year 2 :: first words flow with relative ease. yes. no. more. please. 

Year 3 :: first responses breed fear. no. yes. stop. now.

Year 4 :: caretakers vacillate as speaking voices assume volume (& velocity)

Year 5 :: strings of syllables stock and store visuals. campbell’s soup prints. pork ‘n beans. handprints on denim covered bottom. sporks leave sheens. 

Year 6 :: butter on bread most nights. utter fascination with planets & faraway nations. count trees, reasons to flee, & oversized rations.

Year 7 :: the experienced are disguised as pirates & painters. crafters & craters.

Year 8 :: barter lego’s & alphabet blocks for string cheese & cuckoo clocks. curate pen pals & memorize messages

Year 9 :: trade arcade coins & skee-ball for rental car keys & paintball. run while fleeing. flee while running.

Year 10 :: observe irregular milkmen praise bones & the regular postman belittle thrown stones. 

Year 11 :: document double takes & ID fakes. declare days documented of destiny. all aboard the outbound train.

Year 12 :: measure messages of tone & tenor. metric rulers measure pain in yards. message valid concerns via invalid metrics. never seek to rule. only to evade the ruler.

fingers flick lights in attic stairwells. fumble through toy chests of wood & whimsy. pick one. hurry. the bus awaits. can’t be late. choose three. come, let me see. perfect. honey for my bumblebee. bee stings linger. stings & stares of heirs persist. fingers continue to point. memories continue to (re)generate. design ways to disguise a second-hand childhood (of years & fears)

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.