Thursday, September 07, 2006

Memories of Things Never Meant to Be

Sometimes memories well in my mind and refuse to budge until I deal with them. I’ve been having one of those the last few days, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was someone’s birthday, or the anniversary of some distant occasion long gone from my consciousness. It’s a memory as vivid as if it had taken place yesterday, and as ethereal as if it had happened in that gossamer moment when my eyes first flutter open in the morning. It’s not a complete memory, but one that comes rat-a-tatting back like cotton candy machinegun fire.

There’s a tree in a yard and its trunk has been painted white. A tire swings on a rope from one of its branches, and there’s a cherry tree with bark like raw silk. Its joints ooze with sticky amber-colored sap and empty locust shells. An uncle pushes a motorless mower through the grass. The blades turn and go trsk trsk trsk.

Inside, the house is quiet. There’s no noise, no music, no television. The only sound is the hum of a fan and the silence of shadows. There is no odor of any kind; no cooking smells from the kitchen, no perfumes from the bedrooms. There’s one dim room with a door that’s always open, but no one ever goes in. My mother whispers about a red-haired freckle-faced cousin and the halo that appeared over his head in the days before I came along. There’s an aunt named Helen who sprinkles water on freshly line-dried clothes, rolls them up, and wraps them in a plastic bag. She puts it in the ice box with the lettuce until she’s ready to iron them.

There’s a black telephone with a round dial sitting on a credenza. When the phone is picked up, a woman asks, “Number, please.” The number begins with letters. Sometimes the woman doesn’t answer because other people are having a party on the line. Beside the phone are photographs of the twins who look nothing alike. Bruce is a star on the football team. Janie is a cheerleader and a princess who wears long white gloves that reach past her elbows, and a diamond tiara in her hair.

There are skirt hoops hanging in the basement. They’re worn under a prom dress; and pinned to them is my desire to be grown up and glamorous, too. I want to wear voluminous skirts of tulle and flowers on my wrist, but I’m led away as if these things are sacred, and in my life, I never do wear them.


  1. My grandparents phone number began with Thornwall.........Party lines were common. I wondered why when bluing was used with white clothes they didn't turn the sheets blue. I remember these things and much more. I do miss them. Nice post.

  2. Yay! Someone else who remembers party lines! They were no picnic, were they? I recall bluing, too. And getting my hand caught in the wringer of the washer. Did you do that one?

  3. Your post has brought back so many memories. The washer and ringer and the swamp cooler. The burlap bag handing on the bumper of the car for when the radiator needed water. My Grandfather had a box that hung on the window. It was filled with ice and the wind, while driving, blew cool air into the car. Much more. Hope you don't mind, but I'm going to post a link to this post. It really brought back some good memories.

  4. hanging on the bumper. Getting late and the fingers don't do what I direct them to do.

  5. Oh, my, what nostalgia that post evoked. I remember the black phone, the party line, the frothy tulle prom gowns I so longed to be big enough to wear.

    I've been in that kind of "memories" mode lately, too, except with me it's dreams. Must be something in the air. Sweet.

  6. Steve G visited my blog, and I returned the visit.
    His post linked to yours.
    Very nice read.
    Days gone by...
    I don't remember party lines, but maybe we didn't have them in CA when I was growing up.

  7. Your prose is often wonderfully wistful and romantic.

    Your story brought back many similar memories
    -the damp rolled laundry in the fridge
    -push mowers
    -hoop skirts
    -prom queens
    -tire swings

    Could you be me in an alternate space?

  8. Once again, Blogger is screwing with me. It won't let me comment in my own blog. Let's see if this one will go through.

  9. Jeezus. I am hating Blogger more every day. It makes me want to scream. I STILL can't post a picture and I've got such a good one for this post. Wah!

    So... anyway, thanks for the link, Steve. You always bring such interesting people with you when you visit.

    SJ, I'm a dream fanatic. Would love to hear about yours.

    Jamie Dawn, it's nice to meet you. Loved your post about the online degree. I alerted SJ to it because she's the Word Police.

    Thanks, Marcail. Alternate universe, parallel lives...the idea is always interesting. I like looking back with people who see the same things I see.

  10. Blogger's been kind to me today. It's got to be the full moon, don't you think? I'm sure it'll be back to screwing me tomorrow. Sorry you're still having all the problems.

    The dreams -- several have been about some of my dogs who've been dead for years. They're so vivid that I can feel their silky hair as I'm petting them. And two were about my grandmother and the house she lived in when I was a child. In one, she was telling me to "close the door." I told my sister about that one and, come to find out, she'd had a similar dream that same week. We started humming the Twilight Zone theme song at that point.

  11. Heh. There was a lunar eclipse today. And Blogger is still peeing in my corn flakes. It infuriates me to even think about them. Idjits!

    How nice to dream about your dogs. That must have been - sigh - wonderful. I never dream of any of the people or pets I've loved who aren't here anymore. Sometimes I wonder if i have a mental block about it.

    The one about closing the door, IMHO, is about your grandmother wanting you and your sister to put something behind you. Any idea what? Can you remember if there was something when you were children that still needs to be put to rest?

  12. Beatiful imagery. I make memories of things that never happen all the time.


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