moving

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.

Tiny Reminders

MIsunriseMoving on is simple, it’s what you leave behind that makes it so difficult.
~Anonymous

Sunrise on the Mackinaw Bridge… one of the few things on the 19-hour road trip that I enjoy. Others include cherry coffee, 4am boat counts, and of course, the two dead hookers. But I digress.

The sunrise made me sad this time. I almost drove off the bridge staring at it. I nudged a snoring hippie, “Look, it’s beautiful!” watched his blank stare scan the horizon and then one half-open eye turned toward me and I smile-sighed, “Yes, you may go back to sleep now.” He wasn’t awake. But even if he had been, I’m not sure he would have understood completely. Not completely.

When my childhood sweetheart and I broke up, I lost a friend. When my ex and I divorced, I lost the big screen TV. When Wisconsin and I broke up, I lost the entire chain of Great Lakes. I lost my water.

Breaking up hurts. Even after the hurt is healed, the memory can sting. Seeing the water at sunrise, the reflections, the tiny white caps and the boats gliding across it, made me yearn to dip my feet. I wanted to pick rocks and find shells. I wanted to dig my toes in the sand at the edge of the surf and wait for them to be engulfed in a wet mire of tiny crystals. I get giddy when I see the water. I’ve stopped before and taken a twenty minute break from the drive-from-hell to run along her shores, kids and hippie in tow. But I couldn’t stop this time. There was a family wedding to get to and we were late. I swallowed back a tear and kept driving, window down so I could smell the water and relive a thousand memories.

Even though breaking up hurts, it’s those little things you hold on to that make the occasional twinge of pain easier to bear—the good memories you fall back on, the ones that drown out the bad. Yes I miss my water, but there’s water here. It’s just different water. And I have memories, lots and lots and lots of them—from childhood through teenage years and on into adulthood. Lots.

And I have physical reminders.

Because when you break up, you always take something with you. You hold onto some little physical reminder. When my childhood sweetheart and I broke up, I wrapped the love letters in ribbon and tucked them into my babybox. I still have them, and the half-heart necklace is in a jewelry box. When my ex and I broke up, I put away specific jewelry to be handed down someday. And when Wisconsin and I broke up, I took her rocks. I have stones around the house and several pebbles I keep in my purse. They’ve lost their smell (yes, rocks have a smell) but just the sight of them is enough to allow me to let go of the hurt of the break up. To remember the good times.

Tearing Down the Past

Saturday-Sucked, part 2…

I moved a lot as a child. From Wisconsin to Texas and back, and quite a bit around Superior. By the time I got to high school, I had gone to five of the six elementary schools and knew 80% of the kids in our town of 36,000. As such, I didn’t really have any attachment to the places we lived. I don’t truly have a “childhood home”. Oh I have memories at this one and that one. But none of the memories are of the house itself.

Save one.

For the last half of fourth grade and the first half of fifth, I lived in a huge monster of a Victorian house. It was gorgeous. It had sliding glass doors, hand-carved cherry wood throughout, hidden passages, a dumbwaiter in my bedroom, strange rooms that no one liked, and an odd walkway through a section of the walls that may have been underground railroad. It was cool as hell.

And haunted.

My sister and mother and I all agree to this without any hesitation. We lived there with someone else. I’ve told friends about this house over the years and the woman that stood in the attic window. I’ve explained how one of us would stand on the street and watch, and the other would go to the attic room and stand in the window, waving their arms to the horror and dismay of the one on the street. She was there. You were standing right next to her! There were footsteps heard going up and down those stairs all night long. There was a basement room that none of us could stand in without wanting to run. Things happened that could not be explained. It was haunted. We know this. We don’t question it one bit… and the following residents must have agreed, because they boarded up that attic window in no time flat.

I’ve actually written quite a bit about the year I spent in this house. This was where we lived when I nailed my sister in the forehead from across the room with my hairbrush, because she was touching my books. This was the house I started writing short stories instead of just poetry. This was where we experienced the tent worm attack that has since turned into the novella Waiting Out Winter (and referenced in my short story “The Man Who Slept Through Tomorrow” in Shroud #6). This was the house of the moose skull that’s in my novel Six Days. The nearby graveyard we explored is in a novel I’ll be working on later. The ghost in the attic has a whole novel dedicated to her. Unfortunately, this is also a house filled with horrible memories, some of which have also been muse fodder—but I don’t dwell on those, and no, I won’t tell you which stories. Whenever I’m standing at the edge of a major decision, I have a reoccurring dream which includes the trap door in the attic of this old mansion. This house came with memories for the muse and cemented lifelong beliefs in the afterlife and paranormal experiences. This house, overall, was a major turning point in my childhood. In my life.

And I wanted to show Bob the famous haunted house of my childhood.

I had planned to do better than a drive-by—I was going to knock on the door and explain I lived there as a child and ask if I could walk through. I was going to see if I could stand in that basement room now. I planned to find out if I was even able to climb those attic steps. I was going to say good-bye to old ghosts—both the house’s and my own. I was going to get an adult visual of the rooms and passageways for the novel. And I was going to rescue the journal I forgot, above the 3rd tile from the left of the drop-ceiling in my old bedroom.

But the house is gone.

My sister told me they tore it down and I couldn’t believe it. I think I was actually in denial. They couldn’t have. It was one of the oldest houses in town. Of course, it was in a town that loves to tear down its history and replace it with concrete and glass. So after we went treasure hunting on Saturday, I had mom drive by. I had to see this for myself. And I found that it was true.

It was gone.

The massive porch, gone. The weird twisting back entry, gone. The huge windows and cool little gables, gone. Hell, even the sidewalk to the front street was gone. There’s nothing there but a dirt patch to hold my ghosts. I was shocked. I was saddened. About a decade beforehand, when I saw they had sold the lot across the way and my favorite reading tree was trashed to put up a garage, I was stung with loss. This went deeper. I had a hard time comprehending what was right in front of me—nothing.

The ride home included mom and I rehashing for Bob several of the ghostie’s tricks. She reminded me of the storm that scared the crap out of us. I recalled the shadows that seemed darker than they should have been and the sounds we could not explain. And I repeatedly droned, “I cannot believe they tore it down.”

And as we neared my parents’ house a thought dawned on me, “Where will the ghost go?”

My ghosts are buried in the soil. If you believe that events can haunt a location, I may actually be one of the ghosts in that ground. But I was referring to our mystery maid (the attic window was the servant quarters, so we had all agreed years ago that it was a servant’s ghost). Where will she go? How will she walk the stairs that are no longer there? How will she slam the door that has been dragged away to some salvage yard? What will she do? Where will she go?

And the more we thought about it, the more we questioned it. Where do ghosts go when you tear down their haunting grounds?

I got home and hopped on Google hoping to find pictures to use as reference for the novel. There was nothing. Mom laughed, “Well, no one can fact check. You can just make shit up now.” Yeah, I love turrets, but that house didn’t have any…and it won’t in the novel either. Realizing her snark was met with sadness, she told me that the woman that lived there before us probably had pictures and that she ran into her all the time at garage sales and such. I told her to ask next time and she agreed. Case closed.

I thought.

The universe is goofy. Just when you need something the most, it delivers. I had taken a one-two punch Saturday—between the teacher’s estate sale and my house being gone—and was feeling beaten. I was deep in thought, dredging through memories of both school and that house. And still in that funk when we returned to the estate sale Sunday.

And the universe provided.

There was Mrs. Farmer, chatting up my mom as I came around a corner. And yes, she has pictures. She also has my address now and will be sending me what she’s got. I have to wonder if the ghostie will show up in them or not.

They say “you can never go home again.” This time, they weren’t joking, but I’ve got pictures coming in the mail. And as mom says, I’m writing it all down and making my ghost immortal, even if the walls that held her are gone…

 

(updated to include titles and links to book mentioned pre-publication. ko 2/10/15)

When the Cat’s away…

Because yes, I’m running away. Off to Necon this afternoon with Bob, Alethea & Tomo. We shall play with the magical talking box and hope it doesn’t get us lost, see friends & colleagues for several days, road trip back… and you know what? There’s no flipping airplane involved for me!! Wooooooh… and reason #9,782 why I moved = no more airfare =)

Oh wait, I got sidetracked there… sorry. I’ll be gone, but I figured I’d leave you with a chewy coffee talk to ponder in my absence… Thus, the mouse will play!

What is something you do when no one is around? Not something wrong or dirty, although if you feel like answering with those, who am I to stop you?! I mean something silly, or stupid, or that you could easily do when others are around but you don’t. Stupid human tricks if you will… that for whatever reason, you keep private when it doesn’t need to be. Are you a closet singer? Dancer? Talk to yourself? Or is there something even better, darker, funnier that you do? Bring it on… amuse me, damn you!

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