Re-collecting memories • the first dozen


1959          0          Kennebunkport, Maine - no emotions - no movement - light coming through a window, reflecting off of white, peaked, ceiling walls - small flowers in the wallpaper on the short wall nearby - I've been told it is not possible to have memory of my second floor attic bedroom from this year.  I do.

1960          1          Quincy, Massachusetts - nothing

1961          2           Danvers, Massachusetts - a tin toy car garage/gas station with movable lift is presented to me by my dad while playing in the backyard - bright warm sunlight in my eyes - soft green grass under me.  Happy.
                               Danvers, Massachusetts - a spider the size of my hand crawls out from under the bed next to me - I place a shoebox lid over it - mom panics - it is no longer under the box lid when we return to my bedroom - my mother is angry - I am afraid - it could be anywhere.
1962         3          Peabody, Massachusetts - my favorite birthday present from Nana and Papa is a disassemblable wind-up plastic robot that "swings his arms" when he "walks" - I take it apart and put it back together more than I wind it up and watch it roll around and "squawk".  Interest.  Curiosity.
                             Peabody, Massachuestts - mighty mouse has gone to commercial - with my blanket tied around my neck I zoom around the living room one fist out, the other clasped to my chest - I run into Papa coming around the corner to the kitchen - my fist strikes him low - he spanks me - hard.  Surprise.  Sore.        
1963         4          Peabody, Massachusetts - Dr. December says big boys don't suck their fingers or keep a blanket - he says it's OK for a four year old but not five year olds - (with family reminders) I throw away my blanket and stop sucking my fingers the day before my birthday - Nana and Papa and Mom are all so happy - I am a big boy now.  Independent. 
                             Peabody, Massachusetts - I can't even get out of bed when they change the sheets draped around - the varnish on my headboard is soft because of the constant vaporizer - I'm very scared when they leave me alone in the huge everything-smells-funny hospital - even though it hurts my throat when I do, I cry a lot - every time a new person in white asks what kind of ice cream I want tomorrow after I wake up, I whisper 'vanilla'.  Sick.  Alone.
1964          5          Peabody, Massachusetts - First grade - Santa actually brought me what I asked him for when I sat on his lap at Marshall Fields: a Big Bruiser tow truck - shock and excitement crash into my chest and I cry my first happy tears.  Elation.
                              Peabody, Massachusetts - First grade - not much school attendance this year - a few weeks after getting scolded for over two weeks to stop scratching my chicken pox, I come down with Mumps - A month later, Croup keeps me bedridden in a "croup tent" - Back at school, I catch Whooping Cough.  Dismal.  Dreary.  Miserable.   
1965          6          Peabody, Massachusetts - Second grade - a boyfriend of Mom's takes us to a carnival - 'pick a girls's name,' he says - Linda (my first crush and the teacher's pet) - he rolls a ball and it stops on Linda - 'pick any prize,' so I pick a plastic doll in a wedding dress (against his and Mom's and the barker's attempts to dissuade) - later, my sister "wins" and "chooses a pop-gun" - days and weeks later, every adult I know tells me the doll is hers and the gun mine - eventually I stop restisting.  Confusion.
                             Peabody, Massachusetts - Second grade - Mrs Creane (whom we call Crayon) repeatedly strikes both sides of both my hands with a ruler after I slide Ronnie's chair back when he stood to read Fun with Dick and Jane - he sat, hard - his glasses bounced off his face - I stood in the hall for a while after "getting the ruler".  Shame.
1966          7          Peabody, Massachusetts - Third Grade - day camp is oppressively jammed with unnecessarily loud, squealing, pushing, and bullying bigger kids - they all travel in groups except me - I sit quietly and do the crafts suggested by the staff - afternoons we walk to the lake - I have to stay on the beach or wade - a lifeguard shows me, every day, how to float; how to kick; how to breathe under my armpit - by the end I can swim - I swim out and jump off the raft.  Pride.  Accomplishment. 
                             Peabody, Massachusetts - Third grade - my fort is next to the driveway where the snow is piled deepest - afternoon sun low behind me, I see Papa's car coming - gleefully, I make a snowball - as he parks, I spin and throw! - for some reason he rolled down his window - it hit him in the ear - upside down, I am crashed headfirst and buried in my fort - I struggle to get out - tears of 'didn't mean to' and 'window was up' fall on angry ears.  Misunderstood.  Unfairly punished.
1967          8          Fort Wayne, Indiana - Fourth grade - this house has more rooms than we have furniture - too hot to play outside - Mom and Step-dad's TV restrictions are loosened - I lie on the cool tiled basement floor - curtains drawn - watch Death Valley Days, Lost in Space, Star Trek, Batman, The Man From UNCLE, Mission Impossible, The Fugitive and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - the only thing with me in this huge room is the smokey smell of long gone fires in the empty flagstone fireplace.  Comfortable.  Entertained.
                             New Haven, Indiana - Fourth grade - talking is only permitted after raising one's hand and being recognized - getting up to use the restroom (located at the back) is only allowed with permission - my hand has been in the air forever - throat clearing doesn't work - I ask outright several times - no response - I can not hold it anymore - I get up without permission - the boys-room door is locked - I knock - someone's been in there longer than forever! - I pace - can't hold it - as I pee my pants, I race across and enter the girls restroom.  Extreme embarrassment.  Victim of unjust ridicule. 
1968          9          New Haven, Indiana - Fifth grade - my mother bends her "no two-wheel bicycle riding until ten years-old" rule - they gift me with a red, Huffy Cheater Slick bike with black and white banana seat and highrise handle bars.  Ecstatic.  Blessed.   
                              Nashport, Ohio - Fifth grade - playing in the woods with a boy who is visiting our neighbors for the summer - chasing - splashing in the creek - friendly jokes - playing with sticks - swinging on grape vines - climbing rocks and trees - out-of-nowhere he unfolds a pocket knife and brandishes it - "How'd ya like it if I stabbed you?  I could stab you to death." - running - being chased.  Fearful of unexpected crazy, of not escaping, of receiving pain.  Home brings relief.
1969        10           Nashport, Ohio - Sixth grade - at the end of a classmates birthday party, the popular kids are playing spin the bottle - I gradually realize my presence is unwanted and clumsily bow out (unkissed) - waiting for my ride, I discover Janice near the backdoor - she is uninterested in playing with the others - we talk - we giggle - I give her my candy bar.  Glowy.  Warm.  Infatuated.
                               Nashport, Ohio - Sixth grade - playing in the woods with a large group of boys from my neighborhood - someone lights a fire - many begin to smoke stalks of straw - home so early? without your friends? - naïvely, I confide the reason for my discomfort - disregarding all protests, Mom calls all their parents.  Untrustworthy.  Ostracized.  Sad.  A tipping point...I never confide again.  
1970        11          Nashport, Ohio - Seventh grade - my assigned seat on an overfull school bus is in front of a fourteen year old bully - he knuckles my head morning and afternoon - never hard enough to raise a welt - a complaint to the driver results in 'get back in your seat or be expelled from the bus' - for months I duck and shirk his sneak attacks.  Put upon.  Victimized.  Nowhere to turn.  Helpless.
                              Nashport, Ohio - Seventh grade - a cool windy afternoon - Bully whacks the back of my head as the entire neighborhood is disembarking from the bus - Keith (a smoking-straw boy who hasn't spoken to me in months) shouts 'leave him alone' - Bully threatens Keith - after the crowd thins, Keith jumps on Bully, sits on his chest, pins his arms, and pounds his face - blood spatters from Bully's eyes, nose, and lips - dozens of blows - I cheer the entire time.  Schadenfreude.  Glee.  Comeuppance.
1971        12          Peru, Indiana - Eighth grade - up until now all bedtimes were chiseled in stone - Friday nights I no longer have one - after everyone goes to bed, I get to stay up and watch Sammy Terry's Nightmare Theater.  Privileged.  Spooked.  Enthralled.  Grown up.
                              Peru, Indiana - Eighth grade - all motorized two-wheel vehicles are off-limits and forbidden - I ride a fellow-Boyscout's minibike, one afternoon, in a different county - two months later, my sister Nanett learns about it - after school one day she proudly "tells" and reacts gleefully as Mom grounds me.  Betrayed.  Unhappy.  Adamant that some form of statute of limitations must have lapsed.  Sullen.
                                                                                                                                     the second dozen →

No comments: