Tag Archives: Childhood

Mantra for the Sane

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In writing I worry
I have said too much,
too little
I capitalize on
the funny parts
the sick parts
the sad parts
the parts
half worth
anything
to anyone
(likely not)
I leave out how
my Dad religiously
kissed my forehead every
morning before school
or that friends
parents often
said “we can’t afford
to keep  feeding her”
which only made
my hungrier
my cousins
called me
“oinker”
I leave out
the parts where
I was a happy, jolly
normal kid playing
make-believe and house
I leave out the parts where
I do not go hungry
But I remember
the good times
when I do the dishes,
the innocent times
when I sweep the floor,
the carefree times
when I call for the dog,
“I wanted this”
I recall
“This is all I ever
wanted”
I write my past
I plot my future
“I’ll be the husband
and you’ll be the wife”
I remember saying
“I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries”
It will be so much fun
It is all I ever wanted
It will be so much fun
I recall, hand swirling
in a vat of dishwater,
igniting the suds
It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted

This becomes a mantra
for the sane

It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted
I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries
It will be so much fun

A History of Kitchens Part One

rebecca sittler
Photography credit: Rebecca Sittler

These are the kitchens of my past. Some of the kitchens were females and some were males. Some of them had dining tables and some did not. I remember the worst of the kitchens, the friends or neighbor’s kitchens in college—I was afraid to eat a thing strait from the waterlogged counter, there were hotpink Las Vegas shot glasses and sticky empty liquor bottles on their sides and who knows whose ass had been sitting up there. I remember the food bank finds, the cardboard microbrew beerbottle canisters with a banana inside, a serrated knife, and a days old spoon with yogurt-tongue markings still on it…a bag of Western Family wheat bread always almost out and wanting so badly to be the lucky roommate to eat the last sandwich, with cheese.

I cleaned kitchens in exchange for cigarettes for a woman I can’t remember the name of now but I can see her plain as day in front of a sepia television, blinds closed, sitting on her long black hair on a tan couch in a house down Modoc Lane. I was fourteen. She didn’t have a table in her kitchen. I used yellow Sun soap and an inefficient wide-pored plastic green scrubby from the dollarstore to wash dried Top Ramen noodles from indian boybowls on foggy, windy days, my kid-hands enjoying the hot soapy water and subsequent Marlboro 100’s plus four to go in the pocket of my jean jacket.

Personal | Becky Luigart-Stayner--Food & Lifestyle Photographer
Photography credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Kitchens with no power. A solar pushlamp dim as a candle. Kerosene lanterns and a generic plastic red and white checkered tablecloth my Dad picked up at Shop Smart. My Dad, just twenty-four but playing Mom with our square, aluminum-legged kitchen table, checkered cloth and candlelight, for both practical and spiritual purposes. Two dinner plates and forks. Papertowels folded in half for napkins. The days when things were real good for us both. A father, a daughter, and a kitchen. Propane gas stove and long-handled lighters—big boxes of matches my Dad would strike on his pants zipper if I asked him to. Matches that struck on the pavement of the platform outside our trailer, the concrete foundation that would be our home. A home that never really got to happen.

It was a small father-daughter kitchen, with one window above the sink which in the daytime looked out to a lush green lot, with rabbits in cages, wild doves in the Myrtlewood trees, and geese and ducks and things. The window fogged at night and I would write things on it to entertain myself, smiling faces, peace signs, my name, mad, antsy scribbles, spirals and hearts. There were no refrigerator magnets and the walls were bare. In the living room was a framed school photo of me that would eventually burn and in the bathroom, the Lord’s Prayer hanging on the wall, a wooden vintage piece: Our father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name... In the kitchen cupboards: white sheaths of premium saltine crackers, cans of “ABC” soup, a bag of popcorn kernals, white rice, apricot jam, and on the counter, carrots, potatoes, cumin and mint tea.

What Katie Ate » Happy Easter 2013 (!) and a few Gluten-Free Desserts :)
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A boy cousin is over for dinner. We’d come by some sort of green squeaky toy—a frog—my dad requests that we bow our heads to pray before eating which I obediently do. My boy cousin squeaks the toy and giggles. Maybe he did this twice. My Dad says firmly (to us both, as to not even call my cousin out), “Humble yourselves.” My boy cousin squeaks the toy again and my Dad immediately smacks the toy from my boycousins hand, looking serious for once and shocking us both to the core as it was one of the few times we’d seen my Dad genuinely pissed. We both bowed our heads as my Dad gave a shaky, but always sincere prayer starting with Dear Heavenly Father and ending with the three of us saying Amen.

Nag champa incense and me knee-sitting on a simple wooden chair washing dishes, often my designated chore, with large yellow rubber gloves (you know the kind) complete the memory of my most cherished kitchen—the one dad and I shared in Rock Creek. Sometimes I would be asked to come play, but my Dad made me do dishes instead. However if the dishes got done, I could go play. But if they didn’t it was me in the kitchen crying and alone.

This is The End

I started running out of things to write. I’ve told you about all the wild things, my wildcard parents, my over-bearing, artistic grandmother, my messy scramble for love, our dirty homes and apartments, all the mistakes we ALL made, and will continue to make…I told you and then I came to the end. I started running out of things to write.

Spring came–and with its newness and promise, I was able to recognize the closing of the first part of my life; my first twenty-eight years. Nothing spectacular happened, nothing dramatic, but it was a slow ease into my twenty-eight spring. And that stillness was something different, something new, there’s maybe even something dramatic about the way the waters calmed and stilled and pooled after years of gushing and cascading.

All the parts have closed in on themselves. The wild things have closed their wings. I think, finally, I am done. I am done telling this story. I was wondering when it was going to end, and how. People always ask me “Is your book finished yet? How do you even end a memoir, cause, like your life is still happening.” Exactly I always say, How do you?

At this stage of my manuscript it looks like this: I should maybe not even call it a manuscript but a project. Projects get messy, this is messy. This is not 303 typed crisp white pages binded and clipped with a title page and dedications. I do not know the title yet and I have a ton of typing to do!!! See, I am a writer, not a typer. I am a writer, not an editor! My project looks like this: something like twenty-four notebooks complied over the past six years filled with long, drawn out and angry dialogue during which I am both teaching myself to write and scribbling all the letters I never did, but apparently really wanted to write to my mother, lovers, and other people too. Oh I let them have it. I didn’t only say nice things about my father either. Didn’t only say nice things about anyone I wrote about except maybe Charles.

So its Spring now and I’m twenty-eight (and a half) and I’m standing out in my boyfriends lawn and he’s just mowed the grass, the air is perfect, the trees are like magic, and I’m not even high on anything. I look at the sky and it’s perfect too. There’s a wiry black dog running around at my feet. My feet are bare, I’m wearing nothing but a long white cotton halterdress with orange blooms, my hair is down and long now, my body is weightless as I realize that the moment is perfect, just me, in the woods, no book even, no coffee, no shoes, a man off in the distance, the promise of sex and comfort, my bareface, my dreams, the lightness I feel in. this. moment.

I notice something over my shoulder. I slowly turn and look, I see The End. I see the chaos that was my past, my history, tromping off like a brigade heading to who knows where, not any longer attached to me, but parting from me. I bid goodbye. I holler and smile. I prepare to let go.

Esther

Did I dream her up?
I met her in the vegetable garden. It was sometime near my fifth birthday. I was fingering the dense pumpkin stocks and their broad leaves like wall insulation to the touch–misleadingly soft and cozy. Like a five year old herself.
She appeared there beyond the ripe orange globes.
She stared at me,  reached out to touch the vines.
She was my age. Her eyes spoke to me but her childmouth never moved. I admired her wetsand-colored curls as she told me that we were Identical. That he touched her too. That he came for her when he was done with me, that he came for me when he was done with her. She told me her name was Esther. Before I could respond, he pulled up in his Chevrolet. I crouched down in the path in my Autumn dress. I peeked my eyes above the garden greens as he pointed to the passenger door instructing her to get in. My eyes got big and wet, her dress was caught in the door, they drove down the dirt lane toward Hunter Creek and I shook but it wasn’t cold outside.

Cabin Door

When the cabin door was pulled shut at night I could let out my big breath. I always felt ill at ease when my Dad’s buddies were around and they were always around. Didn’t work. None of ‘em. I wished they would go home to their trailers down the road. And they would for a minute and they would come back and they would invite me and I would say no, talking quietly back to their hot smelly beer breath.

In the day I would go hide by the river and pretend all those things little girls pretend. That they are princesses, mermaids, that they are safe. But when the sun went down Dad said I had to be home at the cabin.

The door of the cabin didn’t lock, exactly. In fact the door handle was a rope with a big fat knot. We had one of those little tiny silver hook locks on the inside of the door and nobody could break that unless they were really, really trying too. No one was out to get us, by any means, but there were a lot of men with wild eyes up there you see. Outlaws. I felt better and safer when the cabin door was shut and my Dad’s friends were locked out for the night.

I wished I had a sister or a brother, big ones, or a mom.

Nostalgic

Permitting my
mind to wander
like a small child
in a meadow
back before the
tablets and
animated games
when one would
examine the grasses
and discover its
many kinds–
Rattlesnake grass,
Kentucky Bluegrass,
the type with edible
lavender or buttercup
flowers
Nature was as close
to a child as the chest
of a mother and nature
was enough for the
eighties child
Allowing my
mind to wander
like water
around the bend
around the tangible
spaces of this life
reaching and touching,
smelling and lifting
avoiding the flashing
and faux

Widow Home Part II

This place was my first fancy meal, in a trailer-turned-Taj-Mahal where we ate steamed whole artichokes dipped in melted butter and T-bone steak. This place was Peggy and me, sixty years apart in age, sitting Indian-style across from one another, in a mobile three blocks from McDonalds hands clasped in front of us in prayer gently singing we are siamese if you please, we are siamese if you don’t please. At that time my voice was so soft it was barely there. And while my vibrant, open, excited child’s-mind could capture these memories I have just shared with you, the reality is that I could not even mutter a thank you. Often one-on-one with Peggy I would freeze. The intimacy of the energy that was with us being too much. Tapping a place I knew little about—the relationship between woman and woman.

Throughout every moment with Peggy, or with Tina, my great Aunt, I felt pampered, like a princess-child. Like I could take on the world. Like I was somewhere else completely. Like I was someone else completely. My higher self. I could rest. I could wake and see magical things. I was in a magical world. Like a girl in a Disney movie. Like a girl on TV, in a normal home, with a normal family. Where things looked good and smelled good and felt good on your skin. Where you were rewarded for your hard work—an orange and crème popsicle for doing the dishes. Where nothing was out to get you.

After two nights or so my dad would pull up out front in the pickup-of-the-week. It would be seven p.m. on Sunday, getting dark, a school night and Peggy would say something about that and arms would raise and for the first time in two days my little white arms would get cold from standing in the sea air watching my dad defend himself, sawdust and oil on his pants and hands, him talking about a late start and needing to finish bucking the alder and I haven’t even sold it yet and I’ve got to go meet the guy tonight, actually and me noticing the blue tarp over the heap of wood in the back of the truck. Peggy would give me a dry kiss on the cheek and though there was a certain carefree comfort I felt with my dad, my eyes might sting with a tear or two as I watched that mobile-home-castle get smaller in the mirror reading objects in mirror are closer than they appear and thinking I sure hope so.

We All Remember (Cabin Kids)

We all remember
the running and playing
how we cursed darkness
and dinner bells,
tumbling in at
dusk’s very
last moment
before the sky winks the
day goodbye
catching your breath
before the
closed cabin door
waving goodbye,
Johnny, an unassuming boy
hollering have a good night!
hands-sapped,
knees-scraped,
buttons burst,
braid unravelled
We all remember
our hair stuck
to our foreheads
or long streams of sweat
dripping down, traveling the
length of our nose,
those ninety-degree
summer nights
We remember our
parents saying
I wish I could bottle
that energy and sell it!
before ashing in their
beer can,
white flakes
falling
on a
plate
of
franks
and
ketchup

The Time, Mother

The time you changed your name from Darlene to Brenda

The time you gave me a blonde baby doll and told me I had a brother on the way

The time you tied a friendship bracelet on my wrist and said now I’ll always be with you

The time we stopped to pick a rose on the shoulder of the highway…and it came with a bee

The time you made long, dangling hippie earrings–for a living

The time my room flooded and you cried because you felt bad

The time you bought ten hamburgers from McDonald’s and for the first time we all got full

The time we looked at a house we couldn’t afford and we all picked out bedrooms anyway

The time you took me to the Bayshore Mall and bought me an eggshell-colored Easter dress

The time you put barrettes in my hair (I don’t remember it but I saw the pictures)

The time you sang You Are My Sunshine to Cloud and I looked out the window and held back tears

The time you volunteered at my school library and I was embarrassed because of your short, slutty shorts

The time you lit a cigarette, looked at me and said don’t ever do this

The time I stole 2 cigarettes from you and you never found out

The time I realized our hands and fingernails look exactly alike

8:05 p.m. the time you gave birth to me, far too young

The time you failed to meet the expectations of your adopted mother

The time I knew exactly how it felt

The time your dad died and if you hadn’t already lost all hope, you really did then

The time you tried to wriggle your way into societies mold but it just didn’t work

The time you introduced yourself as Moonbeam and it all made sense to me

The time you socked my dad through the pick-up truck window

The time we left you in the dust

All the times you left me in the dust

The time you cried and said you’re sorry

The other time you cried and said you’re sorry

The many other times you cried and said you’re sorry

The time you googled me everyday for five years but never called or emailed

The time you said I’m so proud of you and in my mind I said for fucking what?

The time you said Enough already! and I said Okay