Sunday, November 24, 2013

Boots

Click here, then read. 

I like to be honest only sometimes.  These times don’t get me very far.  There is not really a jackpot at the end of the rainbow of honesty.

I know I’m not the most social of human beings; I value quiet more than I should.  If things can be quiet, I can relax.  Some noisy times I remember in life were when I pressed my ear to the heating vent on our living room floor in 1979, when my sister told my parents in the basement that she was pregnant.  The older kids were always noisier. I remember when the middle girls were teenagers and didn’t want to wear their snowboots to school anymore.  Secretly, in my mind, I already knew they left their boots behind the garbage cans in the alley, but when they would argue about it with my mom—who really wanted them to wear their boots—I would just cave in and promise the world that I would always wear mine.

Not that the world was listening.  I was just never looking for trouble.

I remember stealing a cigarette lighter from my mom one time when we were still living in the upper peninsula.  I probably didn’t like it that she smoked, but that’s not why I took the lighter.  We were moving again, this time back to Minnesota, so I figured I’d bury an artifact of us behind the lilac bushes.  Maybe I’d get the chance to dig it up one day.  It was 1976.  There were a lot of time capsules being buried then.

In my memory, there is a segue between tromping around in deep snow to find Christmas trees in Escanaba, Michigan, to sitting at the breakfast table in Bemidji, Minnesota, watching my parents chase my older siblings around.  It was entire discord.  I would be having a fine enough time eating fried eggs on a Friday morning and my mother would go shooting by, trying to drag my sisters into their boots.  I would wait for us to go to the state park, then a drunk sister would show up and she would have to go with us.  I remember sitting at the top of the staircase when I should have been in bed, listening to my own parents’ raised voices…with nobody else in the house.  I was kind of used to noise then, because the older kids were starting to have babies, but the tenor of my parents’ voices against one another was new.  That definitely meant that something was wrong.

My dad liked to transplant trees and never thought much about moving us around, so off we went again from Minnesota to Pennsylvania in what seemed like a sorry parade, but I was so used to it.  I was fourteen but grew up to match my next sister’s 19, the next one at 21, and so forth.  There were enough kids and babies at that point to distract everyone from me.  I felt largely on my own, but I wasn’t. 

I would always be surprised in Pennsylvania when a sibling or anybody would show up.  Sometimes they wanted to live with us, and sometimes they got their own apartment.  I remember having to share a fan with my pregnant sister, the two and a half of us sleeping in a tiny upstairs. I knew then that quiet would get me nowhere, so I thrusted myself upon the world in my way.  I had never done this before, to my mind.

This took playing my guitar in a musty basement, making six-egg cheesy omelets by myself on Saturday mornings, and making my dog a bologna-cheese sandwich the night before my dad put him down. 

We were moving again.

I was voted “most outgoing” in our senior year high school album, but I have no idea why.  I was the photographer for our yearbook, but for as much as I felt part of anything, I might as well have been the film. 

I went on to work the regular jobs as camp counselor, barmaid, tutor at the challenged center, my dry-cleaning stint.  I must have been loud sometimes in my relationships, but it was always quiet when I ran at night.  Not safe, but quiet.

I am still jangled to the present almost every time I look up.  I respect people who have had jobs outside of education; it seems like I’ve been raised in school and I’m still there.  “Huh?” and “What?” come out of my mouth too often.  I still can’t take a break-up, yours or mine, or President Kennedy’s.





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