People will often make up their childhood memories only to have them corrected later in life. This is more prevalent in people who didn't grow up with much. By the same token, a parent may try to rewrite history for the sake of making things better.
"Oh, there goes that little horse we used to have." My Lito once said, taking off his glasses and squinting up at an old picture of my aunt standing next to a pony.
"We didn't have no horse!" My aunt declared, "That's from the petting zoo when the circus came to town!"
Lito shrugged, and gave an 'oh well, worth a shot' kind of sigh.
Knowing how history can be so dodgy, I naturally assumed that I was making it all up when I recalled an emu living next door to us. And a warthog. And a pot-bellied pig. We live in the country and have only ever had two neighbors... one was my dad's family, and the other was an old white shack across the street. No one really lived in this shack, rather, people drifted through it.
Vagabonds, you might call them. Gypsies of the Midwest.
In recent history, though, they've all been rather redneckish... setting the lawn ablaze with roman candles on the fourth of July, shooting chickens in the middle of the night, and cursing loudly outside at any ex wife that successfully learns of their whereabouts. You see more of their dogs than you see of them, the mother and her brood are constantly getting loose and roaming freely on the terrain, barking like Cerberus at the gates of the underworld.
When I was little, however, they were most surely the aforementioned gypsies. I remember riding home from school on a day just like any other day, and then looking to my left, experienced the first true 'What the hell?!' moment of my young life. There, behind the barbed wire fence, was an emu. The shock value is increased when you don't know what an emu is in the first place.
It turned out not to be a hallucination, for the very next day the emu was still there. What bothered me the most was that the emu didn't seem to know that it was out of place. It's not natural to see a giant bird indigenous to the Australian outback mingling with cattle, but the emu was totally unaware of this fact. Every once and a while I'd stare out my window to look at it from across the street. Cars would pass by without slowing down, so I can only imagine what they must have thought...
I envisioned many different people and their many different experiences. Like the hot blond girl with her convertible... hair whipping in the wind, radio on full blast, enjoying the pleasant Oklahoma weather... I could see her taking a deep sigh of relaxation as the beautiful country side rolled past her, and then, just as suddenly, as a random emu flashed through her visage.
Or like the business man on his way to a convention in Oklahoma city...
"Yeah, the stock market is really booming right now boy I tell ya... yeah, I'm on my way to the city right now on a lonely country road. Aint nothing like it man, jus' you and the road, like my mama used to tell me.... what the hell is that thing?!"
The unprovoked nature of the emu really made me respect it. No, it didn't give a damn if you thought it was out of place. I liked to think it got some sort of pleasure out of freaking people out. But all good things must come to an end, the emu people packed up and left. In their place, the warthog people came by.
The warthog was nowhere near as enjoyable as the emu had been, for in a matter of weeks, it had broken through its barriers and had run wild on our side of the street. I remember taking the trash out one day, and looking out into the distant countryside, seeing a warthog galloping around with the horses.
Maybe because of the dangerous nature of the warthog, it was predestined that its owners would pack up and leave. At first, I was relieved to see them go... until the pot-bellied pig people showed up. You would think that given its size, this would be the least threatening of the vagabonds' pets, but these particular gypsies had trained the little guy for battle. Though the other ones had been big, this was the only one with a vendetta against us. Within a week of its short stay across the street, it had walked over to our house and trashed the garden. At this point, I was really missing the warthog people.
"Did we really have neighbors with an emu across the street?" I asked my parents one day, wondering if it had indeed all been a fantasy of mine.
I guess I should have known that it was a bit too strange for a kid to have just made it up like that. Some things, I suppose, are so strange that they can only be true.