My earliest memory is from christmas around 1973. Just before I woke up, the abominable snowman was holding me in his arms above my bed laughing deep malevolent guffaws, teeth glistening with ice and then he dropped me onto my bed. I fell, woke up and looked around my darkened bedroom, certain I must have cried out. The walk from my bed to the stairs is unmemorable but as I crept down the stairs lit with white lights, scratching my hand ont the tinsel, my feet covered in pajamas slipping on the wood stairs I spied my parents together on the floor in front of the tree. I don’t know if I spoke or they just say my legs but simultaneous shouts, “GO BACK TO BED!” and “NO!” are the only thing I remember. Feeling excited and confused, the memory ends.
That is the only memory I have of my parents together. I don’t remember one other thing about them even being in the same room together. I remember my mom giving me some actifed crushed on a spoonful of soda but for what I don’t remember other than asking her what I needed the medicine for. I don’t remember being sick so maybe she was dosing me to make me sleepy. Maybe she needed to go to the store for cigarettes and she didn’t want to take me to the store.
I remember finding a box turtle on the sidewalk and bringing him home. Riding my big wheel. Looking out at the courtyard filled with cars, covered in snow and feeling trapped inside my house. I remember catching the bus to sunday school by myself and getting my own breakfast, no one walking me to the bus. I remember my grandmother’s house and every breakfast she ever cooked for me. Learning to crochet, hammering nails into wood with bottle caps in kindergarten. Playing with my dolls and chalkboard. Swinging on my tire swing. Riding my bike into a cloud of gnats, the bugs sticking to my sweaty head and spitting out the ones that flew into my mouth. Playing cards with my grandfather. Watching him make a magical martini. Ironing handkerchiefs. Stacking the pennies my Poppy used to count the miles he biked on his stationary bike. Going with my Aunt to her cool apartment in Fells Point and going to the festival there. Art museums with my father, the zoo, hikes and finding snakes and deer antlers. Pony rides and sunday dinners. My mom’s chili and the way her purse smelled like tobacco, wrigleys spearmint gum and leather.
I remember feeling loved, feeling lost, feeling like I was always waiting for something that would never come. THe end of school. The start of the summer. Weekends with my Dad. Christmas. My birthday. For my mom to come home. To go home from a party with her, most likely drunk or stoned driving. For my itchy eyes to go away. To come home from school. The start of school. New shoes and coat.
The moment that felt like now. Singing in the car. Staring out the window at the trees a blur of green, then golden than barren. Skating circles on the road in front of the house I lived in. Laying down with my cat Sassafras, him dressed in my doll clothes, limp with love and devotion.
I think now of all the family I have lost. Lost is the best word because 1. I don’t know where to find them 2. I don’t remember losing them or where I left them last and 3. Because they feel gone. Maybe it was always supposed to be like this, this leaving and leftness. All those moments of waiting for the next thing only to wait again for the next thing. All the moments of waiting to be found. Waiting to be loved. Not understanding why I wasn’t or if I wasn’t.
I can see my life, all around me, I just can’t feel it. I can’t feel it except for my own children. They feel real. They feel like now. They feel like purpose. But as they get older I feel like I am still waiting for something to happen. For them to grow up, move away and be on their own away from me. This constant push and rush and pull back is like sitting in the wet sand, the waves of the ocean stretched out to their weakest point foaming over me briefly as the sea retreats into itself again. Waiting, for the next wave-not knowing if this will be the one that takes me under and away.