Mami and Papi sometimes had to leave the five of us alone. I was about nine years old at this time making the youngest about five. For a time my mother was in and out of the hospital and went in at least once a year, so there were many opportunities for us to be alone together in the house. They didn’t do it often, but every once in a while it became a necessity for our parents to leave us home alone while they went grocery shopping. We didn’t own a car so they walked to the grocery store. In those days, you could buy a lot for twenty dollars, filling up four or five bags. I’m not talking about those wimpy plastic bags you get now that have a maximum load capacity of one to three items. I’m talking the huge brown paper bags filled to the top. It would take both of them to carry back the groceries.
These were the times when our games became really interesting. We had about an hour before they got back to the house. We would always get into mischief jumping back and forth from the loveseat and the couch or raiding the fridge. We would post a sentry, usually my Little Sister or take turns running to the window to check every five minutes. When the alarm was sounded, everything had to be put back in its place quickly. Sometimes our sentry system wouldn’t work and the sound of Papi’s keys turning in the lock would be our only warning. That’s when we would grab anything or everything off the floor carrying it away (to return discretely later) and scatter. Most of the time we managed to make it right. Sometimes we wouldn’t and we’d get a “whooping.” Today they would be gone a little longer, having to walk a mile or so to the store, so we decided to go sledding.
Imagine your hair flying back as you slide down the slope. Although the toboggan run was short, it was still exhilarating to swoosh down gaining speed. The bottom was a little tricky to maneuver, not a lot of room to stop. We had to avoid falling off or hitting anything hard because Papi would get really mad if we got hurt. Only one of us could fit on the sled at the time, except for Little Sister and Only Brother. They fit two on the sled by sitting very close. The tricky part was balancing just right so our hands wouldn’t get pinched or smashed underneath our homemade sled. After awhile, we became so good at balancing that we didn’t use our hands at all.
We climbed to the top of the platform; sat on our sled, our hands outstretched to touch either side of the wall until the sled was balanced. Taking a big breath, we leaned forward to drop off the platform pulling our hands in to make the run and hopefully not hit the doorway. Over and over we took turns the five of us, sometimes alone or two on the sled.
We would drag our makeshift wooden sled climbing to the platform on top of the stairs leading to our bedroom. The stairs were exactly the right distance apart to accommodate the length and width of our sled so that we could slide down the stairs without stopping. We were getting really good at this. Wow! If you lean a little to the left at the end of the run, you could adjust your trajectory to fly right into the bathroom and all the way to the toilet. Speed and distance were perfect because the sled stopped just before it could hit the porcelain. It became a competition to see who could slide the farthest. Who needed snow? Not us. Our upstairs steps were angled perfectly. Our weird little sled glided smoothly over the edge of each step to the bottom and the momentum carried us a long way.
Mami and Papi came back from the store. We were having so much fun that our sentry became too distracted to keep a good watch. Hearing them at the door we scattered. Mami walked into the hallway and asked aloud, “Why is this broken toilet seat in the hallway?”