B.R.A.T.S. The Girl in the Bathing Suit
When I was four or five, we were still living on Jameswood Drive on the air base in Winnipeg, my two older brothers, Mark and Robin (now just Rob) told me to follow them. I don't know about you, but for me, when my older brothers told me to follow them, I did; at least in those days. It was how I learned a lot of things.
We soon joined a larger group of kids. Everyone was abuzz with excitement, except me. I had no idea what we were up to and I was too busy trying to keep up to be able to ask questions.
"Is she really?" Someone said.
"She did last time." Someone else responded.
"Bathing suit." Someone said.
"Where are we going?" I finally managed to get out when the group slowed down.
"Come on," Mark said. He turned a bit toward me, "she's going to take her bathing suit off."
Yeah-h-h." Rob said, dragging the word out like a stutter. He didn't stutter so I knew he was excited.
I still didn't know what all the buzz was. I was still so young, I hadn't learned the difference between boys and girls except girls had long hair (in those days) and wore dresses. I continued to follow them because that was what little brothers did, at least in my family.
We went past the last PMQ houses, into the garden plots but not as far as the copse of trees, the southern most one being the Old Oak Tree, a famous, child mangling tree rumoured to be petrified and as old as dinosaurs.
Then the crowd stopped and I peered through the kids in front of me. I saw a flash of red. I pushed forward more.
And there she was. She looked tall to me, her name is lost in the years since that day. In my child's eye I can still see her as she stepped carefully in the long grass. She was in bare feet and I knew the straw-like grass hurt when your foot would come down straight on it. Her hair was just past her shoulders and her legs were long. I suppose she was seven or eight, maybe as old as nine. She seemed very old to me.
The boys around me were quiet as she reached up and pushed some hair behind her ear. Then she reached for the strap of her bathing suit and then she was naked.
I remember feeling a bit envious. I wasn't far past the days when mom would put me in the backyard swimming pool in the nude, the plastic bottom of the pool feeling smooth against my skin, feeling so free.
"She's got no winky." someone said.
And then I saw. She looked just like me and my brothers except she had no penis. I was shocked. How could she pee? My world would never be the same after that realization.
She walked around for a few more minutes then she put her bathing suit back on. All the time I had a million questions flashing around in my mind but I didn't want to ask them. One of my greatest fears was to be seen as stupid and all the boys around me weren't perplexed, they were laughing and jeering and talking and jumping. Their words were lost on me, I wasn't hearing them, I was wondering what had happened to this poor girl and I was concerned that it might happen to me.
We were a Christian family and questions around things like that just weren't asked. I had been admonished a few times for asking the wrong questions so I was careful about what I would inquire about.
I recall one time asking when the lady next door was going to have her baby. It turns out she wasn't pregnant, just fat. Got a smack for that one because I asked her when her and my very pregnant mother were visiting. Another time, when Mom had some ladies over visiting, I stated, pointing at one of them "Hey, she has a mustache." Another smack on the mouth and I knew I had said the wrong thing, just not why.
So I was launched into my adolescence with the fear that my penis was going to fall off at some point, too afraid to ask questions and still kind of wondering about why all those boys had been so excited about it. I had a lot to learn.