In the Beginning

rocker200…I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there.

I wasn’t at my birth either, though I’ve heard the story and it’s quite humorous.

No, the consciousness that is me, wasn’t actually around until about the time of this picture. And yes, that IS me—I’ve always had those dark-ass gypsy eyes and fake smile.

Life, for me, began on a very specific night. I don’t remember much of anything that came before—only faded recollections of memories too far gone and long forgotten to be anything remotely clear. My existence before that night consists of running watercolor canvases filled with the blur of three dogs, the bars of my sister’s crib, and monster-sized blue bottle flies on a window sill. I vaguely recall the smell of a house whose interior I can’t picture, and the surroundings of a glass-topped fishing lure case I apparently danced on with my black patent-leather shoes. And I remember once remembering the chimes of a cuckoo-clock, which mom said was at a babysitter’s, but I don’t remember the sitter or her house, and only “just” recalled that she had a son I later went to school with.

No, me and the memories that make up me started one dark (though not stormy) night.

We had just moved into a new apartment. I don’t remember where we came from, or the act of moving in, I just remember that night, that place.

The apartment had those old ginormous cast-iron radiators. I was standing next to one taller than me, holding the teddy bear my grandfather gave me—which I still have, upstairs, on the dresser. I stared out the window at the moon. It was huge. Bigger than me, my family, our new apartment. Bigger than life as I knew it. Around me were smells I still remember clearly—and almost fainted at when I moved into a new apartment after my divorce and was hit with similar smells thirty years later. The apartment of my beginning had lots of woodwork. Old varnish, new polish, life absorbed by the grains and held tight in the knots—it had a smell.

And a sound. But the sound wasn’t the wood. It was my grandfather, on his hands and knees, pounding the nails down in each and every floorboard to make sure they were flush and wouldn’t hurt our tender little feet. Our. Because even though I don’t remember her that night, I know my sister was there. Probably sleeping in her crib.

That was the night my life started. With the sounds and smells of my mother making coffee in the kitchen wafting through the apartment and mingling with the smell of  wood and sound of grandpa hammering. And the moon. My moon. The gypsy’s moon that hangs in that sky every night and calls to me with its secrets and wise silence. The moon I’ve gone back to time and again.

I remember so many things, from big events to tiny details, from that day forward. That’s where I fell in the mud as a ghost for Halloween. That’s where I cracked my head open on the sidewalk thanks to Billy and Kong. That’s where the lilac tree lived across the street, Trina had a better tan, a mime lived downstairs, the Cottons across the yard, kindergarten started eventually, and grandma lived across the alley—where she made lovely green ice cream drinks for the adults but wouldn’t let the kids have any. It was where grandma made me sit on the Sears catalog because I was short, and then ran me to Sears for portraits when I fell down the stairs and got two black eyes, because that’s how we roll in my family. I remember a ton. Mostly good. Very little bad. My mom’s 8-tracks (sorry for shredding those), and an album with a fairy tale on the cover or a wolf or something that my mind turned into a fairy tale. I remember the claw-foot tub and being afraid to flush at night because I was convinced the monster that belonged to those feet would come up and eat me. I remember “the vice” (sorry Jen), and the awesome-tube, and hiding behind the couch when the wicked witch appeared on Wizard of Oz. Lasagna and mom’s friends. Climbing in the bathroom window because mom liked to forget her keys. Laying in bed listening to the sounds outside, and the voices inside. I remember…

But nothing concrete before it. Nothing solid before that moon and the sound of grandpa making my world safe.

Sometimes, feeling safe is more important that we realize. It can become the beginning as we know it. Sometimes, we take advantage of or get comfortable with the fact that we’re safe. And only realize it when we reach an end. Sometimes, the moon needs to wink and remind us to appreciate it, or seek it out, or spread it to others. Because even when the clouds cover the moon and the comfort of a teddy bear is outgrown, safety is still there, still whispered, in the quiet presence of memory, and everyone should have a beginning.

Thoughts? Tell me what you think...

Subscribe for Updates

Archives