Monday, May 8, 2017

Childhood memories

The family station wagon, a white Aspen with dark green vinyl seats. Sticking to the backseat in the summer. Finding a small gift on my seat before a road trip with the family, something to keep me occupied for at least a short while.

Playing dress-up at the girls' club after school. High heels and fancy clothes, probably donated items from closets where forgotten bridesmaid and prom dresses had once hung. Volunteering to sweep up after the afternoon's activities because it meant I got to have a snack and pull a glass bottle of Coke from the machine in the kitchen, even though the bottle cap always bit into my fingers.

Selling candy around the neighborhood for the same girls' club. Immediately hating sales. Stalling. Walking down the club's long hill of a driveway as slowly as possible. Eating some of the candy myself even though I would later get in trouble. Arriving, more than once, on the doorstep of an old man who was always happy to see me. Smiling, greeting, stepping inside at his invitation, remembering only a flickering light on the left side of the hallway. Darkness.

Posing for pictures Dad took for his various books. Pretending, alongside my brother, to drive a train, peer into a cave, or investigate the mouth of a well. Being at the home of a well-known family, descended from settlers or conquistadors or some such. Watching a girl close to my age brush her long, dark hair before joining her siblings in the backyard for the photo.

Running through the ramshackle clubhouse my dad built for me and my brother, its walls a hot pink we specifically picked out during a trip to the paint store. Swinging on a tree branch between the back step of the structure and the neighbors' wall. Playing in a camper parked in the backyard even though we weren't supposed to be inside. Pretending to drive a broken-down pickup truck, making car noises and shifting only when I remembered.

Leaving a deep fingernail scratch across the album cover of Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, a birthday present I had deeply coveted. Paying for a copy of Thriller with a few singles and a pile of change, proudly poured, to the clerk's chagrin, from a manila envelope onto the record store counter. Buying a tape of Van Halen's "1984" for $4 from the kids next door. Listening to Quiet Riot, being scared of the guys in Twisted Sister, experiencing the first years of MTV at friends' houses.

Growing tiny, anthill-sized boobs and having to tell my parents in deep, deep shame that the girls on the playground had told me I needed to buy a bra. Participating in a staging of the Nutcracker with my ballet class, promoted to a soldier because I was "too tall to be a mouse." Telling my mom about helping hoist friends to the monkey bars, letting them step into my hands or climb on my back even though it hurt, and having to ask her what she meant when she called me a beast of burden.

Sparklers on the patio on the Fourth of July. A school box full of supplies (and gum!) from Grandma at the end of every summer. Small chili peppers made from Wonder Bread + Elmer's Glue dough, painted red and glued to wooden spoons for our mothers for Christmas. Flips off the uneven bars on the playground; the freedom of soaring backwards. My calloused palms, my spirit, my courage.

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