We’d lived in our house at the bottom of a steep hill for a couple of years. I called it the catch-all house. I frequently shook my head thinking that if a car lost control coming downhill it would end up in my garage. It seemed I constantly had any number of basketballs and other toys that rolled down from houses uphill.
One summer day I responded to a rather urgent knock on my door. I went to answer it, wiping my hands on my apron. A little girl, about 6 years old stood there, ready to knock again. I opened the door and said hi.
“Can I use your phone?” she asked.
“Are you okay?” I asked, getting alarmed and reaching for my phone in my back pocket.
“I need to let my mum know I’m here.” She answered.
A hundred questions got clogged in my throat as I tentatively handed over my phone. I glanced up and down the sidewalk feeling a cross between concern and suspicion.
She nuttered numbers and slowly keyed them in. She shifted her weight onto her right side and turned to face the road. I think I was dismissed. I heard the phone dialing on the other end. “Cool flowers,” she commented to herself as it rang, peering up the tall potted bamboo on my porch.
“Hi mum. I’m here… Okay, thirty minutes.” She figured out how to turn off the phone then thrust it at me. “I need you to tell me when it’s been thirty minutes so I can go home. Where are the boys?”
I was somewhat stunned. I had never seen her before. She was incredibly pretty with piercing eyes and a sweet smile. Her pink t-shirt said ‘Princess’ in pink glitter. She wore cut-off denim shorts and flip-flops.
“What’s your name?” I asked, amused.
“Maggie. Oh, I hear them at the trampoline.” She wheeled around and ran down the side of the house to the boys. I looked up and down the street again and shook my head, smiling as I shut the door and returned to my baking.
It was the catch-all house alright!
Maggie and I quickly became buds. Sometimes her older sister came along to play. They always called their mum when they got to my house. Occassionally Maggie said hi to me first. I got to meet their parents and chuckle over little Miss Personality. She and my youngest boy James share an age and a temperament. They are forever getting into spats over one thing or another and neither will back down. She loved playing with my boys’ toy guns and ferociously flung them in dangerous, unpractised ways, which drove James crazy. “That’s not even how you hold a gun,” he told her for the hundredth time, exasperated.
“I can hold it however I want,” she would retort, wielding it wildly and about knocking herself over. I nicknamed her Calamity Jane.
She and my older, MUCH more subdued son Paul would play peacefully for hours. Paul patiently tried to tutor James on how to deal with her. James would just shake his head and walk away hopelessly disgusted, groaning, “She’s so stubborn.” I would smile knowingly to myself, he had met his match.
One day, Calamity Jane came to play as usual. At twenty eight minutes I reminded her it was time to go and, as it was somewhat late, I asked Paul to walk her home. A few minutes later, I heard the front door slam. Paul walked up to me ready to pull his hair and mockingly yelling in a little girl voice, “It’s my option and it’s my opinion.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked, bewildered.
He went on to recount how he caught up with Maggie as she was marching up the hill and she asked where he was going. He informed her that he was walking her home.
She stopped in her tracks and glared at him, incredibly offended. “I don’t need you to walk me home.” She declared emphatically.
Paul was taken aback. He composed himself and kept walking uphill. “My mum told me to and so I will.”
She stomped up to him and cut him off, leaning into his face with narrowed eyes, “Well, it’s my option and it’s my opinion!” She stated and decisively pointed him downhill. She spun on her heels and kept hoofing it. He made 2 more determined attempts to catch up to her, explaining his chivalrous duty, each time getting the same response. He breathed deeply and threw his hands in the air, “She is so stubborn!”
James smiled smugly at his brother, finally feeling very understood.