The Pleasant Grove

by Aimee Harvey

The place I was born was neither magical nor dream-like, but for us—her seven and I five—it was a place of wonder. The truth of it, though, was that my cousin and I were simply too young to realize the grim conditions in which we lived. The place we grew up was called Pleasant Grove, which proved itself to be a lie of a name because it was neither pleasant nor a grove of any sort, it was instead an ugly place, the bad part of an urban paradise. There, the houses had walls with holes in them, and pieces of old and broken-down cars littered the lawns around us. But this is something one does not notice until they grow older, when they become desensitized to the wonder of even the most magical places. Of my time there, I can only remember the summers, which were always unbearable and humid. The air was always thick and our hair was always frizzy; we were happy and we did as we pleased. We were ignorant to the ugliness, to the despair felt by those who lived in that place, many of whom could never leave.

For us, though, every single day there was one of exciting routine. We’d circle the pecan trees in the yard of our neighbor, and gather the pecans in plastic bags our grandmother saved from the grocery store. We would crack the shells in the way our grandfather had taught us, enjoying the fruits of our labor between slurps from the garden hose. We’d pet the goat that my grandmother had stolen from my grandfather, who lived across the street, partly to spite her ex-husband and partly to save the goat from being turned into dinner. The goat was kept in a makeshift pen made of chicken wire in our backyard, and we would squat beside him, laughing at the socks my grandmother had taped to his horns to keep them from causing us pain. During the evenings, we would be taken by the hand to St. Augustine to show our devotion. We would sit in the pews in a room lit softly by white candles, in peaceful silence. We would clasp the plastic beads we were given, not really knowing what anything meant. This was youth, but this was ignorance. This was poverty, but this was bliss.

Aimee Harvey is a nursing student at the University of Arizona.