So many years since my parents have died and yet they walk through my life day by day, hour by hour. Is this so for everyone? Sifting through our ashes, seeing the truths or remolding childhood witnessing into more truthful adult understandings. . . or should they be upended? Aren’t my life experiences as a child as equal, or more so, than their adult counterparts?
Isn’t the fact my father and I played a game where he blew his pipe smoke in my face because it made me exclaim for him to stop but we both laughed just as valid as my understanding that it was the underpinnings of my attraction and addiction to tobacco, and later COPD and asthma? Or my coming in drunk from some beer bash and sitting up with him for hours talking about the world, the universe, my present, later to realize he had been drinking too and it was a tactic acknowledgement of drinking as acceptable, even essential? Just as Christmas brings misgivings driven both my the year we snuck downstairs to see an entire kitchen and bikes our size as well as the one when Dad knocked over the Tree in a fit of alcohol fumes?
As an adult, I moved back to Connecticut, staying in my mother’s room while looking for a home of my own. Within those walls, Mom and I made peace with each other. I finally felt her life, what made her, why she was such an angry person much of the time, overwhelmingly generous at others. I understood why she was angry with me, frustrated at my weaknesses, as she co-dependently made right my many, many mistakes. I forgave her transgressions. And felt her presence at the foot of the bed and with the Shirley Temple collection, the first dolls she ever owned.
Yet these two people gave us such treasures. As a Minister’s family, we moved frequently, as my Mom did, from one Brooklyn apartment to another when the rent ran out. So when Mom saw a tiny ad for a 250 year cabin on 50 acres a 17 hour trip away, she bought it sight unseen so we would, no matter how many times we had to move.
Every summer she would take off work, bringing us up to our spiritual center for 2 months, Father joining us under his vacation. Now I look back to see how hard she worked on the cabin, making it safe and livable for us. Understand, as a mother myself, the frustration she would sometimes feel as a single mom for such a long time. Laugh at when she sent my wayward brother to the garden to remove rocks when he did, frequently, something outrageous.
Memories fill the furniture in my apartment. A teacart given from a barn in exchange for a loaf of bread, now well over 150 years old. The carved, wooden screen behind it, a much beloved piece from my grandmother. My “distressed” childhood dresser and toddler rocker. The cut glass pieces my mother so dearly collected in a beautiful collection. The painting of “Uncle Willie”, an old hermit who closed off his beautifully furnished home, save the kitchen, when his wife died; we picked cherries from his trees, mom making pies, jams, and bringing them to him.
My adult eyes stare into the inward memories of my brain to remember. In some places there are causes for anger displaced. In order, wry comprehension. In others humble gratitude. They were not perfect people but they were good ones, who moved beyond the strictures of their memories and life experiences to give us so many precious ones.