Monday, January 12, 2009

Chapter 1

Five of us lived in a single wide, pink and white trailer in a perfect little park which could have been the set for ____.  Mom kept it sparkling and the fuschia baskets hanging on the porch were inviting.  My earliest memories are are like pictures infused, indented and textured with the specifics.  Like the  sunshine pouring in on the blue oversized cabbage roses printed on mom and dad's bedspread.  Mom was taking a nap one day in this glorious sunshine and I decided she needed her ears cleaned.  We didn't have q-tips, so mom would often use a hair pin to clean our ears. The round part.  It felt good.  I wanted to practice on her, so very carefully found the opening and plunged in.  She woke up with a yelp!   This is where my memories start.  I was probably 3ish.  There was an old man who lived across the street in the 'woodlot'.  We kept our donkey Noel in the pasture he owned.   He was a rock hound, and let us children watch him work.  We couldn't wait to see what the next batch out of the tumbler would look and feel like.  The rocks had a certain smell when they were getting polished and it seemed to take weeks for a batch to get done.   We could plunge our hands into the pile.  The kinesthetic pleasure was a rush.  I would kiss them, rub them on my cheeks, take a handful and move them together, pet them and explore each one.   I still love rocks and when I'm anywhere they are, usually when I get home my pockets are ALL full.   Does anyone have a tumbler?   The rocks I bring home are rough and unpolished, but I always imagine what they would look and feel like polished.  Dad was able to use part of this 'woodlot' for his moonlighting business.  He cut wood, brought the rounds here, then on his off hours split it.  He sold it by the cord for extra money.  Dad was beautiful to watch as he split wood.  He would put the round on the chopping block with one hand, set just how he needed it and in one fluid ballet move swing the axe up and around and down exactly where he wanted to cut.  The first cut split it in 2, then those would each get split in two.  There was a steady rhythm, a dance to it.  Not a movement wasted.  He was a handsome man, well built, very fit and limber.  Woodcutting was an art form to him. 
Terry and Marsha learned to work very hard, do it right the first time and be proud of what they had accomplished.   With 6 years space in between Marsha and me, I mostly watched while they had to sweat.  They could stack a cord of wood the perfect height, depth, width and length. One that would stand, a stack that had perfect straight sides.  They had some hard expectations to meet with.  Dad was an army sergeant and at that time think he was training boys in boot camp.  He treated his family like a sergeant.  Somehow I escaped or was just too little.   I couldn't wait for him to come home.  First, he took a 10 minute nap.  Exactly 10 minutes.  Then he would sit up and I could play with him.  I still remember the feeling and smell of him in his white undershirt.  His uniform shirt always got taken off and hung up immediately.   This is when I could comb his hair making endless hairdos, parting it, waving it, slicking it and such. 
He didn't seem to get tired of it before I did.  He proffered his little black comb the next night, smiling a dazzling smile as he did.  I knew what being the apple of God's eye meant when I first read it, for I saw myself reflected in my dad's eyes in just such a way.  Usually mom would have dinner ready and we would eat around the table.  The girls would clean up the kitchen, while I 
watched Dad polish his brass buckle and polish his shoes.  It was a ritual, always the same, done as a discipline that never varied.  The results were always the same and yet it fascinated me.  His shoes got spit on after the layers of wax were put on, buffed with this brush.  His movements were precise and he worked at them repeating the process until they reflected our faces.   Every weekday night! I was 45  when I got my first and only real professional shoe polish.  It was on my bucket list.  Craig gets a kick out of helping me check things off this list, so when we got off the subway in D.C. and he saw a gal smiling as she was doing someone's shoes, he looked at me and said, "want your shoes polished?"  It was an amazing experience.  She owned her own kiosk, loved her customers, who repeatedly came back in loyal lines.  She must have spent 30 minutes making love to my shoes, restoring them to glory, and horrified at the neglect.  She was delighted that we had chosen her for my first introduction and honored that she would be the check on my bucket list where it says-Get Shoes Shined.  I got a lump in my throat at the smell of the polish.... 
In the morning before Dad left for work, he would tuck me underneath him on the bathroom sink and we would shave together.  I never understood why my strokes didn't have the same raspy sound as his, even though the cream came off cleanly and in puffy clumps.  We would rinse our razors, mine without the blade, in the sink full of hot water.   I would clamp my lips over my teeth and stretch my chin just like he did, rinse it, and match him stroke for stroke.  
Then we would pat our smooth cheeks, mine no smoother than before and breakfast would be ready.  We would sit and have coffee.  He would have a big cup, I would have mostly milk and sugar.  It smelled and tasted wonderful.  I had no idea how young or small I was in that adult setting.  Love has a smell, a taste, a sound and the touch of his hard calloused hands- never to be forgotten.   


Anonymous said...

You have some incredibly vivid memories of your father. That's a gift! I wish I had some of my own. Perhaps if I excercised my memory some would come back to me. I heard today that the brain doesn't forget one thing that we experience. Somehow, I don't know if that's altogether true for me!

Cherish your memories and keep sharing! They are wonderful... and don't forget, your writing is a gift. Perhaps someday you can publish your collection of essays down your memory lane!

KoverB said...

Thanks for your encouragement and feedback. I don't know what I'll do with the not so good memories? :) They are just as vivid.....

Rhonda Thomas said...

I LOVE the way you're able to express the feeling of being the apple of your daddy's eye! It does give one a wonderful, if humanly imperfect, picture of how our Daddy in Heaven dotes on us and longs to envelop us in his relentless, merciful love. I think journaling the not-so-good memories along with (or separately, however it happens) can be very healing, but journaling the good ones also helps us put the not-so-good ones in a more accurate perspective. Sometimes the not-so-good grow larger in our minds than they should be allowed without the balance of the whole. But even when the not-so-good really are "all that," getting them out, whether privately or publicly, usually helps them lose some of their hold on us. Not a rule; just sometimes works that way, as you know! :o)

KoverB said...

You're so right, Rhonda. As I get older, the not so good ones get
bumped to the bottom. When I'm an old woman, I want my mouth to be turning up at the corners!
PS. Your writing is so clean and proper, if I ever write a book would you be my editor and clean me up? I would be intimidated if I didn't know how kind you were..... :)