I was eleven. I loved things that not everybody loved, like thunderstorms and rainy days, winter, outer space, darkness and the feeling of mystery. I thought about things I read, either for school or for fun, and pondered them long after I’d finished the book. I thought over events in my life the same way. I looked for meanings, for connections, reasons, patterns, philosophies. I had a lot of thoughts and a lot of feelings and I was always exploring them, taking them deeper, writing them down. On Saturday mornings I woke up early and sat in bed writing stories. I was just starting to figure out who I was. I felt vivid, like a full moon in a sky full of identical stars.
I was scared that Mom or Dad would kill me in my sleep. Dad was an FBI agent and he had a gun that he sometimes kept in the house. I thought even he was afraid of Mom, who screamed all the time, got hysterically mad and spanked me when I was little. It was her I listened for as I laid in bed in my thin yellow nightgown, reading Nancy Drew by the light of my night-light, while I tried not to think about getting murdered.
My parents’ bedroom door opened and I heard Mom’s sharp footsteps in the hallway. They sounded mad. I waited curled on my side with the book under the covers and screamed No, Mom, No! inside my head. If either of them came for me tonight, I’d jump out the window. I didn’t care that my room was upstairs. I’d jump anyway, land mangled on the driveway and run across our yard as fast as I could. I’d pound on our next-door neighbor’s door. If she answered, I’d tell her my parents were chasing me and beg her to protect me. If she didn’t believe me, I’d run faster and pound harder at the next house and go through the neighborhood with wild desperation until I found someone who would keep me safe. It might not last. My parents might follow me, shoot into the distance or use the authorities to take me back, but that was like the second story window and the driveway; if I wanted to survive, I’d have to think about it later.
The bathroom door opened and Mom went in. I kept freezing. She finally stalked back to her room and I breathed. The quiet lasted a few full chapters.
I got up and went to my window. It faced the driveway and our front yard with its giant tree. The moon was out, maybe full, I couldn’t tell. It was big and white and round and it cast shadows through the branches onto the grass. I had a huge feeling of dark and mysterious magic in my chest. If I could touch it, it would be like touching my soul. It would make me huge too, and magic. I stood watching the moon, the tree, and the shadows until I was finally tired.
Yeah, it’s just a little dark, I know. This is what I was invited to read at “The Best Memoirists Pageant Ever” at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC in 2007. So the picture is from that event. Fun times.
Fun fact: I was kinda freaking about reading this piece out loud and so a good friend had me read parts to her beforehand, and from the first sentence we were laughing our asses off. It’s not really funny, it just somehow struck us that way. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. And that’s okay.
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- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch
- Warding Off Eclipses with Sex and Music
- Total Eclipse: A Memoir Chapter
- She’s a Girl Rising From a Shell
- Just a little anecdote
The Care Bear Grumpy Bear. He was blue and soft and bear-shaped and sat on white shelves across the room from my bed. I had a bunch of Care Bears–Cheer Bear and Love Bear and Sunshine Bear and Lucky Bear and all that–and they all had these white patches on the stomach with a picture. Instead of a rainbow or hearts or a sun or a shamrock or whatnot, Grumpy had a perfect storybook storm cloud with little drops of rain falling from the cloud on his stomach. There may even have been a zigzag of lightning on there. I loved him best. Even if I couldn’t articulate it then, he was the most like me. I loved storms and thunder and lightning. I loved the rain. All the other bears were great but they sorta reminded me how my mom was always telling me to be more cheerful–even assigning me the line in a Girl Scout Brownie ceremony, “I pledge to be cheerful,” or some such. But I wasn’t a cheerful child. Grumpy got me in a way the other bears could not.
I thought that instead of posting some small excerpt from a longer piece (which can come w/it’s own complications at times) that is in the midst of being revised, I might post some short, self-contained responses to writing exercises. Not as polished, for sure, but there’s something to be said for that.
I’m taking a memoir writing class this term, and one of our writing exercises was to describe a familiar object from childhood, something you could see in your room, for ten minutes. Then we talked about the objects in small groups (my object prompted another group member to ask, “What does that say about you?” in a tone I’m not quite sure how to interpret) and discussed whether we could look them up somehow to verify our memories of them. I can but haven’t yet. I’m going to post the sample and then I’ll google image search it out and see how it measures up and include the pic in this post.
So, like I said, just off the cuff, no editing, no pre-planning, just, there it is.
What childhood object or toy do YOU remember? Freewrite for ten minutes if you want.
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- Reading Eyes and Faces – Seeing and Not Seeing 1
- Geomagnetic Imprints and Natal Honing
- What Color is Your Eight? – On Symesthesia 1
- The Colors – Dark As Roses 1
- The Care Bears Movie (1985)
- My Cartoon Childhood