Sunday, November 6, 2011

Writing Assignment: Childhood Memory

I think at this point, it's pretty safe to say that I have official writer's block. It's been days since I could think of something that I wanted to write about. For me, that constitutes some serious writer's block. 
In an attempt to unplug my brain, I was given a writing assignment from my dear friend and sister in law Lucia, who has her own little budding blog, which you can check out here
The assignment was to write about a memory from my childhood/teen/early adulthood, in detail. To make her feel like she was there with me, living it.
So here I go.

When I was 7, my dad took my mom and I to the fair. 
They had separated two years before, and after she disappeared for a year, she showed up again, and they started spending time together. She had a little apartment in Sunnyslope, a new wild hair cut, and she started calling me "girlfriend". Like "Ready to go, girlfriend?" 
It was weird. 
One day, while I was swimming in her apartment pool, she came out looking breathless, excited and like she was in a huge hurry. 
"Get out of the pool" she said. "Your dad is taking us to the fair, you need to dry off and get dressed." To me, this sounded like good news. Holy shit, the fair! And with my dad! AND my mom! But she seemed oddly stressed about it. She was nervous and fidgeting all night, pulling at the short auburn pieces of her hair, smoking too much and picking at the chapped skin on her lips. 
When we got to my dad's house, it smelled the way it always did when my sisters and I were gone for a while. Like unwashed dishes and sweat. I felt bad for being away at my mom's for most of the summer. I knew my dad needed me. 
I remember them moving around each other in the kitchen like they didn't know how to share the same space. I realized for the first time how seldom I saw them in the same room with each other when they weren't fighting. I wondered if what was truly foreign, was getting along. 
I went to the bathroom right before we left, and I remember while I was in there washing my hands, my mom called to me "Come on, we're gonna miss the fair, girlfriend!" It didn't bother me. At least she was calling me something. At least she was talking to me. 
And then my dad corrected her. He said "You know, you shouldn't call her that. She's your kid, not your girlfriend. You're confusing her." and just as I opened the bathroom door, I saw her face fall. It was another thing she wasn't doing right, in her long list of failures. It was the same tired, defeated look I saw on her face, in all of my memories of her. Like a balloon losing all it's air. 
The ride to the fair was quiet. We took my dad's tow truck, with one bench seat. Me in the middle. My dad drove, and my mom looked out the window. I wanted to ask her what she was thinking, but the question sounded stupid, and I wasn't used to talking to her, so instead I sat between them and wondered what the fair would be like. I wish now I would've said something to her. Touched her shoulder, held her hand.
When we got there, I tried to make them hold hands. I walked between them, only coming up to both their waists. They held my hands, and I kept trying to bring their hands together, as if I could work their fingers together without them noticing. When they sat on a bench, I pushed them together, put my  dad's arm around my mother's shoulder. I thought, at the time, that them getting back together was the best thing. It was the only way for anything to make sense again.
My parents laughed at my childish attempts to make them fall in love, and I wished on every star in the sky. 
The only ride I remember, was this big bumpy slide, where you sat on a piece of burlap, and slid down the whole way. I went on it with my mom. She sat behind me and put her arms around my waist. I dug my fingers into her legs as we flew down the slide, catching air on each big bump, and screaming our heads off. 
At the end of the night, when my dad dropped me off, he gave me a framed picture of a Bengal Tiger. And I still have that picture to this day.
It's the only memory I have of my parents being together for a whole night, and not fighting. 
I laid down that night on the love seat in my bedroom at my mom's apartment, with carousel music in my head, while my mother chain smoked in the living room.

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