Monday, September 29, 2014

Memoir #2

We've all done it when we were kids. At least the dreamiest of us little scamps. In Fort Lauderdale, where the sun bakes, and the air is a thick wet blanket, I'd lie down on the sidewalks and stare at the clouds.

I had a lot of time on my grubby finger painting hands. Scarlet Fever flushed my cheeks that year, 1969. I missed 1/2 a year of kindergarten because of it. Mom stayed home during that blessed time. She was so tall to me, all five foot three inches of her.

I remember our living room as a burnished sepia toned photo. The outside borders are fuzzy, like my memory. Yet what I remember is what counts. It seems that the carpet was all shag, green, like pea soup. The walls were blank. We never lived in these apartments for very long. Mom liked to iron and watch a little TV. I think the ironing made her feel leisurely. I don't know for sure, because Mom and I are different, but if it were me, as much as she worked outside of the home when we were growing up, I'd think that time at home, tending it like a garden would be cherished. I recall the ironing board and the giant television set.

It was a typical hot day, and she herded me like a cat, near the television set to watch Neil Armstrong stake that USA flag in a crater far away, but close, on the moon. The same moon that I watched when we would drive home at night after movies at the drive-in. I'd lie on the vinyl seat of the Buick with the windows down, as shadows passed over the convertible ceiling. I saw it, The Man in the Moon. He looked and still does, like a cop with a sideways profile, old school, like from the fifties, complete with the emblem above the brim. "Susie, sit down! This is history. Watch it! He's on the moon!"

I listened and obeyed. I was just that kind of kid. The air condition evaporated all the five year old burden from my fevered brow. And it was enough, so back outside I went. It wasn't on the same day that this other event occurred, but I remember quite a few things from that year, living in that duplex, and all the memories run together, like flipping through a scrapbook.

My friend Gina lived across the the courtyard in another duplex. Her mother sewed and we played with these straight pins, with the colored balls on the ends. Gina had to lay down for a nap, so I was sent home. I took a few pins with me, hiding them in the folds of my smocked sun suit. I lied down on the sidewalk and outlined the clouds with a blue straight pin, like a pointer a teacher would use. Then, I popped it in my mouth. Yeah, then, I swallowed it.

We rushed to Holy Cross Hospital to the ER. Mom clutching the steering wheel, white knuckled, pinched vocal chords, like mine. Hers were screaming. Mine were pricked.

I stared at my toes, barely over the edge of the seat. It was a mistake. I shouldn't have swallowed that thing.

They took an X-Ray and we saw it, floating like. A thin sliver, a slice of moon in the middle of the space of my diaphragm.

"Have her eat bread, and wait. It'll come out."

It did, in the toilet. It stuck on the way out, much the same way it stuck on the way in.

You don't make these things up, and you don't forget them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Memoir # 1

In observing 50 years on the planet, I am writing 50 memoirs through the year

Here is Memoir #1

A Cat/ A Couch

     This will be short. I was maybe three years old. But before I get on with the first of 50 memories of my life, I pause to think about memoir, the French word for 'the study of memory'. I recall my own children with their window eyes; pooling-- the organ that they will grow into, taking it all in, like an aperture on a camera.

     What is it that impresses a first memory? Is it that the heart and brain are already programmed to absorb certain sights, sounds, tastes, textures? Are likes and dislikes already established? Do we have an acute sense of right and wrong, good and evil? Are we drawn to what is lovely, noble, worthy, and do we suppress the not so pleasant visuals, because our souls are built for purity? Or maybe we have a want for approval and we chase what is always beyond our reach? We seek to conquer, and we are adventurous in our quest for imagination.

     I was a breach baby. This is what I've heard: If the mother is under stress, the breach baby is intuitive and sticks close to the mother's heartbeat, refusing to turn head down to face the world. I wish I could remember the womb, but instead I imagine tugging on the umbilical cord, swimming around like a mermaid, a lifeguard (which was decided in the womb). Water holds me. I don't churn against it, but sense the turmoil of a current that would be my life.

My soul knows. It was in the womb where I started accumulating images, sounds, and feelings, building a frame of reference; a memory bank.

     Of course, that is the writer in me, constructing a story, from bits and pieces of what I've heard. But maybe it is the Holy Spirit revealing what really happened; a grace.

     But my first memory isn't that deep or profound. 

     I was itty bitty. I wore Mary Jane shoes and a dress that barely covered ruffled panties. My Dad placed a large baseball cap backwards on my head. The kitty scurried behind a tweedy beige couch. He looked Siamese, but I doubt it because I've heard that he was gathered from the pound to be a good mouser. His name was Fred. Dad tells me that he carried his prizes up on a hot tin roof. Dead mice and rats everywhere.

     The gap between the sofa and the wall was sliver thin. I reached to pet his furry softness. I remember his cat eyes. He swiped his paw at me.

     I feel the scratch, even now.




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

50 Memoirs

Stuck In The Middle With You

....and I'm wondering what it is I should do.

I'm so scared, in case I fall off my chair,

and I'm wondering how I'll get down those stairs.

Clowns to the left of me,

Jokers to the right...

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

- Stealers Wheel

So here I am, observing my 50th birthday.

Smack dab in the middle of life.

Of course, if you know me, there is an old song lyric to summon the moment.

Note the aforementioned.

At the beginning of the summer, I launched a project.

I am writing a biography about my son Paul.

It's tough for me, because I am very much a part of his life.

I want to weave in my own feelings about autism and parenting.

I can hear my mother in law asking, (with her index finger in the air), "Who is this about, you or Paul?"

I've learned from Geri Anderson, that I need to keep the focus on Paul.

I call her my 'Blind Editor.'

She can't see that my skin has grown reptile. It is like alligator bark.

She is not picking on me. By reading a couple of classics, aloud this summer, e.g., Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, I reckon that Geri is right. I must reel it in, hone the ink, and remember that Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens never veer away from the protagonist.

So I write.

And I'm groovin'.

Yet after writing 7 or so solid chapters, I am in the middle. The white page is so truthfully blinding, that I panic. I need a break. I need to write about me.

The other day, I woke from an afternoon snooze on the back porch. I heard our neighbor's baby crying. It took me back about 17 years ago, when I had a few crying toddlers. Afternoon naps had become a necessity to make it through dinner, dishes, baths, and bedtime stories. I called it the second shift. That crying baby stirred a longing for those old days.

Rubbing my eyes, and rising to fix dinner, I realize the maxim, "The days are long, but the years are short."

In honor of my birthday, I thought it good practice to pen 50 essays.

A slice of life, or in this case, a slice of cake for 50 pithy memories gathered throughout these years.

Stay tuned.

Memoir #1 releases on August 8, 2014.