I have loved to read my entire life. On my seventh Christmas I got a set of children’s classics and I was thrilled. They included “Alice in Wonderland”, “Black Beauty”, “Heidi”, and “Little Women”, among others. “Alice in Wonderland” was the first I read and I remember I was pleased because it was a hardback book without pictures, so in my child’s mind it was important. I also had a habit of completely losing myself in my books, to the point I would be completely unaware of what was going on around me. I don’t know how I did it, but I really did not hear or see anything outside of the pages when I was engrossed in a book. This led to a few unfortunate incidents.
When I was nine, maybe ten, I was reading when my father told me to make dinner. It was after my mother had left but before she died. I put water on the stove to boil and went to read some more while it heated up. I have no idea how much later, I became aware that my father was running past my door, up and down the stairs. Being ripped out of my book, I also suddenly became aware that the smoke alarm outside my door was going off. I don’t know how long this was going on before it managed to penetrate my book haze but it was mid crisis by this time. I had set the house on fire and my father had burnt his arms up. I immediately realized what must have happened and knew I’d be in trouble. My father had to go to the hospital.
We lived in a split level, with my room being downstairs and the kitchen upstairs, so I never actually saw the fire, I just saw the aftermath. Right now I’m up visiting family and somehow this incident came up. I don’t think I ever told anyone on my mother’s side what had happened, because of course my father wouldn’t have wanted me to. Anyway, when this came up, my brother spoke up and said he remembers the fire. He was only three (maybe four) at the time so I was really surprised. He said the only thing he remembers is being in the kitchen and seeing the fire and crying because he was frightened. He said he remembers the fire and our father’s burnt arms. He said the memory would surface once in a while but he had never had any context for it and didn’t know I had started it trying to make dinner, because we had never discussed it before.
It makes me wonder what other memories he might have. My brother is rather stoic and trying to get him to talk is like pulling teeth. Sometimes I think it’s just a guy thing. Women like to dissect incidents, while men prefer to sweep them out of sight. We grew up in such awful circumstances, and I have the memories of all these things that happened, but he is six years younger than me. He has almost no memories of our mother, just impressions.
I find that the older I get, I actually miss my mother more now than I did in my twenties. Maybe because I was so busy in my twenties I didn’t have time for much reflection. I was a different person in my twenties, someone wild and dangerous. My brother is missing her more now also. Or maybe he’s missing the idea of her. He’s gotten more curious about her, and started visiting the grave, which I plan to do tomorrow.
When I was twelve I was given a suitcase of her things that came from the accident that took her life. It’s bright blue metal with bright red metal trim, and it’s beat to hell, probably from the accident. Inside it are her clothes and a crapload of papers and photos from her death. There are photocopies of the newspaper article about her accident, complete with photo of smashed to hell tractor trailer, and copies of her death certificate and papers from the funeral. Someone took a metric ton of pictures of my brother and I standing at the grave looking miserable. I had a fuzzy winter coat on and stood holding my brother’s hand. My brother and I both think the photos are tasteless and rather morbid. Inside this suitcase is also her purse. The purse is what I found to be valuable because it held little bits of her. It’s been quite a while since I’ve gone through it, but I remember she had letters, and jokes and a weapon. I’m sure there’s a name for these but I don’t know it. What it was, was a metal ball wrapped in some sort of rope, and with a long rope handle with a loop for holding, and you would fling it around and use the metal ball to smack the hell out of your target. Even the little scraps that accumulate at the bottom of purses had meaning to me. Cigarette paper told me that she must have started smoking after she moved out. Things like that. I have her jewelry box too, which has photos and a dried up corsage.
After all these years, my brother finally wants to go through it, so I gave it to him the last time I came up to visit. I told him I’d been hauling it around since I was twelve, so it was his turn. 🙂 He hasn’t gone through it yet though, so I offered to go through it with him. I think we’re going to do that tomorrow if he doesn’t have to work too late.
Speaking of late, it’s time for me to sleep. I only have one more full day here before I head back on Friday. I hope everyone is having a good start to a new year.