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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One memory I have is of a small round Dairy Queen with those frosted block windows around the bottom half. I can see my mom and I walking to this Dairy Queen, although we donâ€™t go inside. In my hazy recollection, thereâ€™s a window on the side of the stand, and itâ€™s propped open. I can just make out someone through the window as we get closer. The memory stops before we order anything. I have no idea where we are, although somewhere in Berkshire County would make sense, given my age at the time. To be honest, Iâ€™m not even sure itâ€™s my mother that Iâ€™m walking with.
I also remember a small child â€“ Iâ€™m not sure if itâ€™s a boy or a girl. This child has tightly woven curls, and is riding a Big Wheel. The child may be African-American.
And then thereâ€™s the old couple who lived across the street from us on â€¦ some street. The old man is missing part of his index finger, and he uses the stump to point out a daddy-long-legs spider on the wall of his cream-colored house. His curly-haired wife stands nearby wearing an apron and eyeglasses. Their house is at the top of a steep hill, as is ours, of course. I can also remember people sledding in winter down this steep hill. Or at least down some steep hill in a residential neighborhood. And I can remember walking down the hill because we couldnâ€™t get our car all the way up.
One of the many houses my mom and I lived in flooded, and the firemen came to pump it out. I wore a firemanâ€™s helmet â€“ either borrowed or plastic, I canâ€™t remember which â€“ and rode my Big Wheel around the flooded cellar as the men worked. The cellar is lit by exposed bulbs in the ceiling, and the walls are made of cinder blocks. My mom has told me and others this story so many times that Iâ€™m not sure if I remember it or if Iâ€™m recreating it from her memories.
My biological grandmother, Evelyn Borders, is standing in a kitchen, holding me in her arms as the sun streams in. In one version, weâ€™re standing in front of a horizontal rectangular window that fills much of the wall. In front of the window is a restaurant-style booth, although Iâ€™m sure this is someoneâ€™s home. The walls have brown paneling, and my grandmother is rocking slowly back and forth. In another version, sheâ€™s standing in front of a closed door, in the top of which is a window divided into nine small panes. Again, the sun fills the room.
I used to have a recurring nightmare that was set in the last house my mother and Art lived in together. My bedroom was down a narrow hall from the living room, and my bed was in the far left corner as you walk into the room. Iâ€™m three years old, lying in bed wearing footie pajamas with some sort of cartoon pictures on them. I hear heavy footsteps come down the hall, and a head like Frankensteinâ€™s monster peers around the corner of the open door. In fact, there is no door, just a doorway. The monster has glowing yellow eyes. He makes no sound. Thatâ€™s where I would always wake up.
In another dream, my cousins Tammy and Todd and I are in the basement of an old castle. You can see into the castle â€“ and see us â€“ because the walls are cut away as if the castle were a model. We climb up the dusty stairs, climbing and climbing until we reach a high parapet. Tammy falls over the side. Maybe Todd does, too. And then I go over, hurtling toward to ground, awakening just before impact.
And then thereâ€™s the first tactile dream I can remember. Iâ€™m lying in bed in one of the bedrooms in my grandparentsâ€™ apartment in Lenox. The bed is pushed up against the wall, and Iâ€™m on my side facing the wall. Although sometimes Iâ€™m on my back. I canâ€™t recall much of the dream, except that it involves pinching a very small hard round object, like a pebble, between the thumb and index finger of one hand. The pebble shrinks, and this is terrifying.