Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Ashley Walker was first published in The Sun in June 1991. She lives in Dallas, Texas.
This month marks The Sun’s twenty-fifth anniversary. As the deadline for the January issue approached — and passed — we were still debating how to commemorate the occasion in print. We didn’t want to waste space on self-congratulation, but we also didn’t think we should let the moment pass unnoticed. At the eleventh hour, we came up with an idea: we would invite longtime contributors and current and former staff members to send us their thoughts, recollections, and anecdotes about The Sun. Maybe we would get enough to fill a few pages.
What we got was enough to fill the entire magazine.
Though we haven’t devoted the whole issue to the anniversary, we have allowed the section to grow beyond our original plans. After seeing the pieces, we felt that our readers would enjoy them as much as we did — for the information about the magazine’s history, for the glimpses into the writers’ lives, and (not least) for the quality of the writing.
Listen to your mother’s story about playing baseball at fourteen and hearing her own mother say to a friend, I don’t know what I’ll do about Martha’s looks. Wonder if your mom’s speaking in code. Is she going to say that you’re pretty, or has she just told you why she never will?
In July 1971, my father’s heart exploded, and, faced with a comfortless, parent-snatching universe, I said to my husband, “We need to move out of this city. I’m afraid of becoming one of those assholes who wear aviator sunglasses and scream at cabdrivers.” In fact, I already was one of those assholes and had been for quite some time.
Driving back to Arlington across Key Bridge, I leaned my face against the cold glass window while my father bit off sentences like stalks of celery. I’m deeply, bitterly disappointed in you. Crunch. Do you know the risk you put me in? Crunch. What if you’d been kidnapped? Crunch. Who did you talk to? Crunch.
The day hadn’t begun well, but it was just another day in a long line of mean, anxious hours. Time mashed in on her like a couple of hands folded hard in prayer.
A personal visit from God could turn my life around. Then it wouldn’t matter that I was terrible at dodge ball, that I wore homemade dresses, that I didn’t have a Captain Midnight lunch box, that I had the lowest cookie-sales record in the Brownies. They’d point at me on the playground. That’s Ashley. God came to see her. Yeah. She told us all about it at show and tell.