Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: This Side of Paradise (not about the book) (07/14/11)
TITLE: Tale of Two Cities (not about the book)
By Cheryl von Drehle
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Was my unrelenting obsession to cross the footbridge solely because it was so blatantly denied to me, or was there a more compelling drive? When I was thirteen, the festering desire to sneak into West Paradise exploded. My mother and I lived in a small but tidy duplex, just the two of us. She had the unusual, for those days, status of divorcee, but did not have to work. She received a good monthly allowance from my father, the price he gladly paid for his freedom. However, she loved her job as the first female news reporter in rural Missouri; and thus, I was pretty much left on my own. I rarely caused my mother trouble since I was now the man of the household, but I always yearned for something more, although I could not articulate what that might be.
I spent my afternoons sitting on my side of our Missouri River tributary, staring for hours across the impenetrable barrier of 25 feet, and making up stories about the people I imagined populated the forbidden West. And then one day, I determined to finally cross over.
That first tentative trip across the foot bridge that Spring of 1950 landed me on the other bank of the tributary looking back at my side of Paradise. I was surprised at how small and undisturbed East Paradise looked from this new perspective; and how much this side of Paradise close-up buzzed with noise and activity. The contrast was stunning and I was hooked. On this new side of Paradise I met girls my age who didn't go to school. I smoked my first cigarette and tasted my first beer. But I also learned how to tie a worm on a fishhook, hoe a garden plot, and barbecue for a family of ten. I discovered that this side of Paradise worships the same God that my Episcopal church does, only much louder. And I also learned that the amount of dirt on the outside of a kid doesn't necessarily reach the child's soul.
After two years of clandestine crossovers, my life got too busy for these forays into that forbidden land. But the lessons from the other side of Paradise made me both more and less at home on both sides of Paradise.
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