cluttering the net since 2001


Saturday, Nov. 09, 2002
I’m sitting here in this house. This house that is by far the nicest house I’ve ever lived in outside of the one I grew up in. My parents had a great house. When I was growing up our home was one of the nicest houses in town. Now keep in mind in a town called Tire Hill it doesn’t take much to have the nicest house. But we did. My dad kept the yard immaculate. There was a vegetable garden every summer. Marigold beds, sunflower patches, and even a grape arbor. A few acres of very green grass and on top of all of that, there was a massive wooded area behind our house. When I was a kid, there was tons of things to do if you were a nature lover. I can remember going into the woods with my siblings and cutting down these large flowers, I wish I knew now what they were, but they had very strong stems that were thick, hard and hollow. If you cut them in half you would end up with a long hollow strawlike device. And then we would pick red hard berries off of these bushes in the yard and run around shooting each other with our weapons. We would chase each other for hours spitting red berries and laughing.

There was a huge square old style cement block opening in the woods. We would walk around the outer edge of it. I can remember sitting on the top with my notebook writing small little stories and poetry and wishing that the sun could shine down through all the thick wooded trees. Being in Pennsylvania, it was usually in the seventies and I can’t count how many red zippered hooded sweatshirts I grew through in my lifetime. It was almost always chilly. Yes chilly. In the south I never hear anyone say, “Wow it’s chilly out there.” But when I was a kid, that’s all my mom ever said. “Take a jacket, its chilly out there.”

When I was growing up my sister and I shared a bedroom. It was painted pink and we actually had a canopy bed. We both hated that bed, but I’m sure at one time, like prior to being 5 years old, we must have loved it. I can remember being 3 years old holding hands with my sister and walking around a pile of construction rubbish in the center of what was to be our bedroom. Her and I would sit with catalogs over our laps, side by side saying “when I grow up I’m going to buy this and this and this” while placing our little hands on every picture. I remember that one particular day in that bedroom with no windows, the wind whipping through, walking across a plank of wood that felt so high off of the ground, above a moat mess around the edge of our “new” house to get to our bedroom. We played ring around the rosies and I remember being happy. My sisters hands in mine. Singing as loud as our lungs would let us. What I wouldn’t give to have a movie of that scene to watch. Shortly after we moved there, my brother came along.

I can remember my brother’s crib, there was a woolly lamb painted on each side. I recall how he would stand at the edge of the crib looking at me and my sister. I remember how she would go in there and push him away from the edge of the crib laughing when he fell down. I don’t remember any scene after the ring around the rosie day in which I liked her again.

Anytime now as an adult that I look at a house I automatically compare it on an emotional level to that house I grew up in. While there were many events in my childhood that I would love to forget, that house was magical to me. That land, those woods full of lightening bugs, that old cement stone well where I started to write. The trees I climbed, the fire pit where we made mountain pies and melted the bottoms of our Nikes every summer. I miss those days, sometimes I wish I could just rewind my life in fast reverse just to enjoy one of those summer nights when my first cousins came over and we ran around the yard playing tag in the dark, screaming at the top of our lungs when we were caught. I would give anything to feel those things again. To lay on the floor of my bedroom and look at that swirly ceiling where I dreamt of growing up and all of the things I would one day do.

When I was house shopping 5 years ago, I looked at a lot of houses here in Florida. There were never any green grass, never any flowers, and definitely no gardens. There would be no shucking corn, snapping beans, leaning sunflowers, grapes for jelly….

My childhood was full of huge pots of soup at grandma’s house, picking dandelions with grandpa, weeding patches of cucumbers and tomatoes, hanging laundry along the sunshine filled patch of yard, playing outside spraying hoses all over the place with my brother and sister to cool off in July…..

Sometimes I forget these things when I remember these ones…

My parents fighting about who forgot to do something, who was to blame, my brother’s bout with leukemia, my mother pushing my father into the stereo speaker, his head bleeding while we watched. The foul language, the yanking us kids out of bed to stand in a row and listen to my father rant and rage on about who did what with his hammer or screwdriver at 1 a.m. in the morning after he had enough beer coursing through him to kill a small army of teenage boys. I remember the bad and then the idyllic good that I remember somehow gets tarnished like an old penny with all its cracks full of dried mud.

Yes there were Sundays when my grandpa came and got us to go to church. The vinyl seats of his green buick heated up from the sun, scorching the backs of my scabbed up knees as we drove to St. Andrews to hear Father Baroni tell us how to live like good people should. My grandfathers hi karate’ cologne filling up the long bench seat of his car while the polka music was blaring out of his cheap car speakers. “Cricket, (his nickname for me always made me feel special, funny how I just remembered how my Dad called my brother Eric, Herman. What a nickname is that? Herman?? One time at a grocery store my mother called my brother back to the grocery cart by saying, “C’mon Herman we gotta go get some cereal.” Some lady at the store gave her a long speech about what a shitty name that was. I’ll never forget my brother saying indignantly, “Hey I like that name, Daddy calls me Herman!” and he kicked her in her shin.), …I digress….

My grandfather would say…“Cricket we’re gonna have spaghetti today.” That was summer in my mind. Church, grandma’s house, homemade spaghetti noodles, grandma wearing an apron and her pink lips covered in lipstick kissing our cheeks. Come to think of it, she is one amazing lady, homemade spaghetti from scratch and time to put lipstick on and wear a dress on Sunday?

In the wintertime we would pull out our brand new red plastic disks and fly down through the hilly woods straight down into the yard and stop only when we stretched our little legs out and our feet hit the side of the house. We would giggle for hours and stand at the doorway of our house guzzling hot chocolate trying to warm up long enough to go back up through the woods for another ride or another hour to push all the snow into one spot and make a fort to throw snowballs from. I remember the “make a brick” snow gadget that allowed us to make a little pretend house.

I remember all of those things with fondness, and I know that my childhood was full of moments that I would never change. The time my mother took us for Popsicles and lost her wallet after placing it on the roof of the car, she panicked in fear of what my father would do to her for losing $900 that she just put in there to pay bills that day, when ten minutes after we arrived back home, her in tears, our faces sticky from Popsicles, and we got a phone call from an old man that said he found her wallet. He drove the wallet back over to our house and saved the day. I remember how my mother made that man lunch and he sat and talked to us kids for hours showing up little tricks with coins.

I have a wealth of happy memories and I have decided to do my best to forget how my father slammed doors at midnight and yelled and screamed in drunken rages, or how my mother sat idly by while he tortured us by teasing us and threatening to take our toys away. I am determined to remember those green trees in the summertime, those butterflies playing in the sunflowers, the homemade lemonade pitcher balancing on that tiny glass table my grandmother insisted on keeping. That wobbly table was black metal on the bottom, a real glass top that balanced. She would take a wool scrub pad to it every May and repaint it black again. It wasn’t big enough for that lemonade, but somehow it never fell or broke. Those nights staying over at grandma’s house…were amazing. She would sit with me for hours on her front porch and we would talk. I remember thinking we were talking “like grownups” do.

I’m sitting here in this house listening to the heat of my coffee pot clicking and wondering what will my son remember one day? Perhaps trips to the beach, sticky cookie making hands, airplane trips to grandma’s house, mommy reading books, daddy tickling him before bed….?

It saddens me that he will most likely not have any siblings to run in fields with. Maybe I should learn how to make jelly… It saddens me that my siblings are not a part of my life or my son’s life. It’s unfathomable to me even now after 12 years. It never sinks in.

I realize that the things that bring smiles to my face from my memory aren’t about location or chance. They are about love. It was in those moments from my childhood that I felt loved and content. I know my son is loved, how can I as a mother know if he is content? Is it enough that I love him with all my heart, is it enough that I frame his artwork and hug him no matter what grades he gets, that I believe in him wholeheartedly…

Now that I’m in tears, I’m going to go wash my face, and put a big pot of soup on the stove. And when my son gets home I’m going to hug him and talk to him and maybe we’ll go see if I can find a wobbly table for the front porch and maybe we’ll paint it every year. Maybe I’ll get him some of his own hi karate’ cologne. LOL does that stuff even exist anymore?

For now, I’m going to go call my grandparents and tell them thank you for filling my childhood with enough happiness that perhaps I can one day push enough of the badness into the background and remember the good first. It’s been about 7 months since I called them, they’ll think something bad happened….

What do you remember? What will your kids remember?

3:10 p.m. ::
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