Mrs. Shamburger was a recurring character in my childhood stories. Each time we went to my grandmother’s, Dad would point out the brick house two doors down. In that house lived a witch: Mrs. Shamburger. On the day of his father’s funeral, and his sister’s two years later, Dad would walk us down the street and tell how the witch turned his sister into a Chihuahua, or stuck his hand into a piranha tank. Despite the sadness that of that home, he kept the magic of childhood alive for us.
Growing up I thought that Billy Joel and the child singer Rafi were brothers. I believed that my fish, Mr. Speckles, lived for five years. When his tank was empty one day, my dad told us he was at the hospital getting surgery, but not to worry, we were looking at a full recovery. He even brought us there, gifts of fish food in hand. At the koi pond in the rotunda we tried to pick our fish out of the orange blur. The next day Mr. Speckles returned home, with bug eyes, “a side effect of the surgery”.
Years later I am standing in the prairie, holding a dying frog. A six-year old has given me the job of watching it. The following day, he bounds off the bus towards me. I kneel and tell him, “last night your frog told me that he was getting married! He went home to the river. We can visit him this Wednesday.”
Photo by Marina Sachs