My memories are getting hazy and some days I wake up and try to recall as many as I can so they don’t slip away entirely. Some are good, some are bad, and some are like “did that really happen? A lot of them revolve around water, which as a non-swimmer, rather amazes me.
Directly across the street from us lived an old lady who absorbed her grandchildren every summer. I hung with the girl, and my brother took up with the boys. And while my young mind could barely understand how parents could send their children away for two weeks, I began to look forward to their visits. One day they asked me to go swimming with them. I don’t recall where we went or really how we got there, but I remember going into a dark shed kind of thing to change into my bathing suit and being told to watch out because her brothers liked to peak through the cracks. I was too traumatized to have any fun.
Next door to the old lady was a house inhabited by a professor from the college with one son, and they sold the house to another professor with three children. I vaguely recall being invited to go swimming at the college by one of the two families but not sure which one. I remember a brightly lit room with an indoor pool — and splashing my feet at the shallow end while everyone else actually swam. I was ashamed of myself for all the ways I wasn’t like other kids. I’ve been recently wondering if any of this really happened and if the college even had a pool, but my niece assures me Lee Hall is real.
My biggest, longest memory of my life as a child was the word “No.” On way more occasions than not, my requests for candy, clothes, money, play dates with my cousin, piano lessons, ballet class, or a psychiatrist were all met with “No.” (I knew I was crazy even as a kid and I think it was the word no that was driving me there.)
Still, it was quite the surprise that as my wedding day neared and I asked my mother if I could take the quilt from my bed with me, she said “No.” My grandmother had made it, sewing each square by hand into a Trip Around the World pattern. The colors were my colors: bright purples, oranges, yellows and greens with a lilac backing. My mother’s best argument was “it’s mine.” I begged to differ, as I had been sleeping under it for at least 15 years, but got “no” where.
I was angry, hurt, and determined so I measured the squares and set out to make my own. But I was new to the game and failed to factor in a silly little thing like seam allowances so my squares were smaller and I had to make a lot more of them just so it would fit my bed. Also, with little money to work with I used an old blanket as the batting. I have to tell you, it turned out to be the warmest quilt ever made but unfortunately so heavy you couldn’t stand it sometimes so it sits in a closet waiting for me to take it apart and do it right.
After Mom died I was going through her cedar chest filled with my grandmothers quilt tops, and that’s when I spied a duplicate Trip Around the World top. My mother had said “No” way back then but 40 years later my grandmother was saying “Yes.” Folded up with it was the backing fabric she had bought to go with it (with a price tag of 39 cents a yard). It was orange instead of purple which was only slightly disappointing. Yes I love orange but my mind wants it to be purple. Anyway, I am finally putting it together and tying it off, just as my grandmother had done with the other one when I was a child.
One of my bad memories just reared its ugly head this week. It’s from when I was 14 and my new friend was determined to teach me to ice skate at the local rink. One night, as I was removing my skates I noticed a pair of brown Hush Puppy low cut boots sitting beside my unattractive black, bargain basement boots. I had wanted Hush Puppy boots forever but was always met with that stupid word because they were “too expensive.”
These boots were my size and to this day I don’t know what possessed me (I’m thinking it was a buildup of oppression) but I put those boots on and left mine behind. Yep, I stole the boots. I will have to atone for that one day, though I have had enough things stolen from me since then that maybe by now karma will work in my favor.
And to the person who had their Hush Puppies stolen, I offer up my most sincere adult apologies.