Mom and Tony #1 taught me table manners, like don’t put your elbows on the table. I wonder if they remember these things as I do? I wonder if they thought it was funny in the moment? If they thought it was good parenting? It wasn’t and isn’t, and I can still feel the prongs of the fork leaving painful indentations on my right cheek. I’m sure they told me repeatedly. I’m sure they tried other methods before this one. But some stuff will stick with a child into their adulthood. I don’t advise teaching table manners by forcing your tired 5 year old to eat the rest of their dinner, while laying their face on the prongs of a standing fork instead of their hand with their elbow on the table. Clean your plate, Annie. Elbows off the table, Annie. I don’t care if it hurts or if you are crying, Annie. Maybe next time you will remember, Annie.
In Sandpoint, ID we had a treehouse and a bowling alley in the basement. My mom pierced my ears there, in the bathroom. I was 3, I think. She sterilized a sewing needle with a match, and numbed my earlobes with ice. I can still feel the ice. Frozen. But I was pretty, so it was ok. The neighbor was angry with Tony about what, I have no idea. The neighbor stole the ladder to the treehouse so we couldn’t play in it. I think that’s when we moved to Lake Cocalala.
In another house, we had those couches. The orange and brown velvet with the dark wood frame. You know them, everyone had them in the 70’s. I remember waking up early in the morning, mom and Tony still sleeping. I wonder what that white powdery stuff is, all lined up nice and straight. What’s that hand held machine thingy with the red plastic that rolls like a conveyor belt? What’s in those plastic bags next to that thing that weighs things? Don’t touch anything. Don’t make Tony mad. Look Mommy, I am potty training Mrs. Beasley. See how cute I am? Pretty please can I have a Stretch Armstrong like Jed? Anything you want, Annie Bananie.
I don’t remember the end of that life. Not today anyway.
I think the next era was a stint in Sacramento. Orange Grove Elementary. I had pigtails and a big wheel and a Snoopy lunchbox. Enoch told me he loved me on the playground when we were playing Boys Chase the Girls. My mom was the Brownie Leader, so maybe it was 2nd grade. She loved the Girl Scouts, was one herself. I was in a pageant! Like a full on gown and swim suit competition. My friend Marnia’s mom bought her two dresses to choose from. One dress was pink and fluffy with tulle and gorgeous. The other was yellow. I hate yellow. Marnia’s mom made me a mayo and chard sandwich that she grew in her garden in their backyard and I liked it. Marnia loved the pink dress. Her mom wanted her to wear the yellow dress, so she asked me which dress I liked the best. I lied and said I liked the yellow dress the best because I was jealous of everything and I wanted her mom to like me. Marnia’s mom made her wear the yellow dress. I wore a white dress with a red sash, and a red swimsuit with nylons and white block heels. I carried a red carnation. I did not come home with a crown.
We lived in the apartment complex across the street from the school. It’s still there today. I drove past it last year when I took my daughter to water polo practice at American River College. I pulled into the parking lot and it all came flooding back. Mapquest had me go a different way to ARC than I ever remember going before. As I turned onto Orange Grove Blvd. I remembered the school. Orange Grove Elementary is now an Adult School. Our apartment building appeared unchanged.
It’s funny how you hide things in your brain.
We went from living the high life, to living in poverty. And yet somehow, we always got by. My mother is resourceful and strong. She knew how to survive.
I remember riding my big wheel up and down the hallways and the man in the wheel chair that would come to his screen door and watch me. I have somewhere seen a photograph of me in pigtails, in a brown corduroy outfit with orange ribbons in my hair, so I think I remember that. I remember they tried to train me to use my right hand to write instead of my left with this special red mechanical pencil. It didn’t work, I’m still left-handed. I remember Brownie meetings on the grass at school, with my mom as leader.
On my honor I will try…
One is silver and the other gold…
I remember sitting at the end of the couch in my mom’s legs watching the Love Boat and Fantasy Island and her letting me eat her french fries cuz she said she was full. I ate mine and hers. I never doubted my mother’s love for me. She paid me in french fries.
I do remember. Sometimes.
Sitting in the parking lot, I thought I should get the heck out of there before someone calls the cops and says there’s a 40-something year old lady sitting in her car crying with her dog and she doesn’t belong here.
She doesn’t belong here anymore, that is.