About five years ago I started writing a memoir. I kept at it for a little while, writing about 1,000 words a day for a few weeks. I hadn’t yet been to therapy and there were many things I didn’t really understand about my life, but I still find the unfinished memoir to be a fascinating look into my own past. I’ve decided to post it in installments here, with only a few redactions. You can find the other sections by clicking the Memoir category.
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Lenox is also the place where my family began its decline and separation. Thinking back on my time there as a small child, I remember big family dinners with aunts and uncles, cousins both near and distant, my grandparents, my mother. We gathered around the big table in my grandparentsâ€™ dining room for meals; the adults swapping stories as one or another of my cousins chased me under the table to tickle me.
While “Lenox” survived, my family thrived. Or at least it did in my young estimation. We were all close â€“ geographically and emotionally. We did things together. I played with my cousins, ate junk food with my grandparents, went to Friendlyâ€™s for a Fribble. The town was the like the mass of gravity at the center of our familial galaxy. It held us together, gave us a shared history and sense of belonging. Even as young as I was, I could tell that it was a special place. Our special place.
And then, in ones and twos and threes and fours, my family began to leave. Aunt Jill married Chuck Sohl and moved to Baltimore. Linda and Dick and Tammy and Todd were in Wareham on Cape Cod. My mother got remarried, and she and I followed my new dad to upstate New York, then Oklahoma, then back to New York State again. Within a few years, Denise and John and Lynne and Mike were in Kentucky. Then my grandparents left, driven out of the Hagyard building by soaring rent, but also pulled into the new orbit of one of their far-flung daughters. Inside of 10 years, everyone was gone but my grandmotherâ€™s brother, Great-Uncle Jack. The apartments in the Hagyard Building went to new tenants. And my anchor in Berkshire County came undone, leaving my ship to float directionless in new waters.
Norman Rockwellâ€™s paintings were my image of family life â€“ the ideal to which I compared my own family. A comparison made all that much easier because he painted people we actually knew in the place we lived. But like so many American families, mine was scattering, following work as it moved to new boomtowns in the South and the West.
We were never the same again. No more big family dinners. Fewer and fewer visits. Our relationships reduced to the Saturday round of phone calls between the matriarchs of the individual branches, as memories of cousins faded from the minds of the younger members of the families.
I miss my family.
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That’s it. That’s as far as I got five years ago. In the time since, both my grandparents have died, my parents have moved from their home of 25 years and are about to move again, my sister moved, my own little family has moved several times and is now scattered, and more change is on the immediate horizon. In fact, I’ve moved during the run of these memoir installments.