“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Lion at Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Somewhere in a box there is a picture of me on one of these lions.

                   

“And in the heart, born single as a kiss,
Broods the sad other—learner, yearner, dier—
That knows, uncomforted, its one desire
Was not for this.” ~ Rhina P. Espaillat, from “Falling”

Saturday early evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, high 80’s. Thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow.

Very tired today. Spent about eight hours yesterday roaming around with Alexis, trying to find her comfortable shorts and sandals. Bought a couple of skirts for myself to wear to her showers. Also bought the invitations and decorations for her shower. So it was a very productive but tiring day. I made the mistake of drinking too much caffeine while we were out, and I definitely felt the difference in my body.

Double Decker Bus at Piccadilly Square, London

Both Eamonn and Brett came to me today separately to say that they missed Corey. I’m missing him as well. Maybe there is something in the air. I would hate to think how it would feel if he were really going to be gone for 90 days. There was a specific reason why I never dated anyone in the Navy as I knew that I would not be good on long deployments, six months at a time. That has to really wear on a relationship.

Anyway, the house is empty at the moment. Brett went out with Em, and Eamonn went to some cookout with his friends. Just the dogs and me, and Tillie is content now as I took her out to play before sitting down to write; otherwise she wouldn’t leave me alone.

“There either is or is not, that’s the way things are. The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it’s red. But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day. I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

So I’ve been thinking about memories, specifically my earliest memories, real memories, not the imagined memories from hearing people talk about events in your childhood. Of course I have the general, vague memories: going to Ravenscourt Park with my dad and our poodle, Sooty. Walking through Ravenscourt Park with my mom to the tube station. Going to the shops with my mom in Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, and to Mr. Higgin’s shop on Goldhawk Road. But my first true memories come from about the age of four:

  • We are living in London in the first house. We live on the second floor. I have not begun school, so I am at home with my mother. There is a large window in the kitchen, and it is covered with steam as she is cooking. I draw what I think are words and letters on the window. I ask my mother what I have written, and she says, “home.”
  • Same house: It is Christmas Eve. My mother has put up a fake silver tree. I have begged to stay up late. There are footsteps outside the door. My mother tells me that it’s Santa and that he won’t come in if I’m still awake. I crawl under the heavy front door that has glass as its top half, and run to my bedroom.
  • We have moved to our apartment off Goldhawk Road. I fall off the living room couch and sprain my arm. That night I develop a fever and have nightmares about rolling hills of different colors and a giant striding the hills. I have this nightmare frequently when I’m sick.

    Stamford Court, Goldhawk Road, London W6
    We lived on the right side, first floor in the corner; our windows faced the parking lot
  • A little older. We are living in London. I go to spend a week with my parents’ friends who live outside the city. I realize later that I have been sent away so that my parents can sort out yet another indiscretion of my father’s. While staying with these people a local boy is stung by a wasp. This is a very significant event, but I am not sure why.
  • Same age, same visit: The friends and neighbors take several of the children to a neighborhood pool. I do not have a bathing suit. At first I want to swim in my dress. They convince me to swim in my underwear. I am unashamed in that way that only the most innocent of children can be.
  • Still 5. My mother’s brother Danny dies, and she is very upset. She tells me not to tell anyone, so I tell my friends who live in the apartment two floors above us.
  • Five or six. I am participating in a Dances of Asia program along with some Phillipine Embassy children. There are older girls and boys, and I am left alone with the older boys in a room. One of the boys finds a girdle and holds it up. All of the boys laugh. I run from the room and promptly tell on them.
  • Still in London, five or six. I am auditioning for the school chorus in front of the headmistriss of flora Gardens School. I do not use my usual singing voice but yell all of the words very loudly because I want her to hear me. She smiles and tells me that not everything need be loud. I am not given a place in the chorus.

“Memory is the library of the mind.” ~ Francis Fauvel-Gourand

More childhood memories:

  • I must be about five or six as I am in school. My mother puts the front part of my hair up in a rubber band, but she does not take it down every day. I cry from the pain when she finally removes the rubber band that has become tangled in my hair.
  • Same age: my mother and I travel back to the U.S. for her friend’s funeral. I learn the significance of this much later. While we are in the U.S> it is Halloween. My mother buys me a plastic mask to wear. It scares me, but I say nothing because I want to go out with the other children.

    A Typical London Taxi
    Riding in one of these was a treat as we usually took the tube or a bus.
  • About six. Summer. We travel to France on the ferry that crosses the English Channel. Then we drive through France, and Spain. We arrive in Morocco where good friends of my parents live in a metal Quonset hut on a military base.
  • In Morocco, I eat watermelon for the first time that I remember.  An Am-ah in long black robes takes me to the market. I ride on the back of a motorcycle and see camels.
  • Same trip: We drive somewhere in the country, and I need to use the bathroom. There is a hut by the side of the road. Inside are two holes with smooth stones on either side of the openings. I refuse to go to the bathroom.
  • In Spain, we stay at a hotel called the White Horse. There is a strip of paper across the toilet, and I decide that I will use this bathroom.

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, from All the Pretty Horses

I’m older now, but we’re still in London:

  • I’m in the hospital to have my tonsils removed. The nurse comes to give me a shot, and I throw a tantrum. Orderlies hold me down.
  • After the operation they put me in an oxygen tent. I pull the sheet over my head because it is cooler beneath the covers. My mother walks in and sees the sheet over my head and screams.
  • One day while walking to school, my friends and I see a purse behind the bushes that line the side of the hospital fence, a huge black metal fence that runs the length of the street. This may be the nurses home. We wonder how a purse got behind the bushes. Years later I remember this and think that the purse must have belonged to a nurse who was attacked. I create an entire story in my head about this unknown woman.

    Ravenscourt Park
    We walked through the park to get to school. There used to be lots of arched recesses.
  • One day while walking home from school I fall on the road right outside the entrance to the park. A piece of gravel embeds itself on my left palm. I still have a very tiny spot on that palm where the gravel was.
  • We are in school having a maths lesson. The teacher writes a problem on the blackboard and asks the smartest boy in class how many numbers he can work with at one time. He says all of them. She says no, that we can only work with two numbers at a time, do one thing at a time. I spend the rest of my life trying to prove her wrong.
  • My mother cuts off all of my hair so that it will be in the same style s a singer she likes. I hate it short and feel like I look like a boy.

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later, they burn his soul.” ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

These memories are mine, perhaps not recalled perfectly, but as close to real as I have stored them. For example, I know that I saw the guards at Buckingham palace on several occasions, but I do not actually remember this. Most of these things I have not told my mother, so she has not recounted them at the dinner table in that embarrassing way that she does, like the things that I did as a baby. I never told her about the girdle incidence, or the black purse behind the bushes. She does not know that I was afraid of the mask with the thin strap of elastic that got caught in my hair. I never told anyone about my dreams of colored rolling hills and giants.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London

Nor does my mother realize that I remember the Indian woman in the sari who came to our apartment door right after I got back from spending the week in the country, that my mother closed the door and began screaming at my father. I remember that, just as I remember being taken from the room.

Why does it matter where these memories come from? I don’t know, I only know that it matters to me. These are my truths, and they have not come to me from someone else’s filter. There is one thing that I can tell you for certain: I was a happy child most of the time until I went away for that trip in the country. After that, I did not trust that my parents would not send me away again. After that, I was unsure of everything.

All images feature places or things in London that remain firmly ensconced in my memory. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to find pictures of some of these places on the Internet.

More later. Peace.

Music by Josh Ritter, “Change of Time”

                   

The solitude of an apricot

Away from leaf touch, from twig.
Away from the markings and evidence
of others. Beyond the shale night
filling with rain. Beyond the sleepy
origin of sadness. Back, back into
the ingrown room. The place where
everything loved is placed, assembled
for memory. The delicate hold
and tender rearrangement of what is missing,
like certain words, a color reflected off
water a few years back. Apricots and
what burns. It has obtained what it is.
Sweet with a stone. Sweet with the
concession of a few statements,
a few lives it will touch without bruising.

~ Carl Adamshick

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“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead