Thursday, November 30, 2006

At grandma's house...

Everything's old. The upstairs half bath is the size of a closet.

9 Flintlock Drive

How am I am 9 Flintlock Drive?

The memories, the habits formed, the lessons learned, from baby teeth to tonsils out. 3-18, 2"-5", small to grown, toddler to teenager, knowing only the safety of a loving home to the harsh reality of the real world. Mickey Mouse, Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake to a driver's license, down the shore and off to college. Babysat to babysitting. Chubby cheeks to all-grown-up. From them worring about my diet, to me worring about it.

That house saw years pass by and changes occur. It healed a broken arm, a broken heart, and fostered a creative spark. It sheltered.

Home is 9 Flintlock Drive. Home will always be Flintlock Drive.

I don't go back. But in my mind, in my mind, home will always be 9 Flintlock Drive.

Will I go there again? Metaphorically. I hope. I dream. That is my dream. Funny how then it was my prison yet now it is my sanctity. It's not the house, the road, the neighbors, it's not New Jersey. It's a place in me, a place I long to go. A place that's safe and soft and full. Pony rides and snow days, where every Christmas ornament has a history that is told and retold with every unpacking, where pets are members of the family and are remembered long after they are gone.

At 9 Flintlock Drive, all cuts can be fixed with bandaids and all else, mended with time. Where the phone rang with the news of the loss of a friend, twice. It's piano lessons, gold linoleum and matching phone, floppy disks and Santa revealed. This place was a home that again can be created, that will be perfect again, and from which another will still leave.

The dream perfected is a home with roots.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The face you see

The face you see may not really be the face of me; it may not show you who I am. You may not see who I don't want you to see.
I am me; It is I.
It is I who 'slays the dragons.' It is I who runs from the dark. It is I who am afraid of a scary movie. It is I who keeps you in the dark.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crackle, Crackle

I never knew that ANYONE would want me to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" enough times to make my throat crackle.

But the tiny twinkling fingers reaching towards the sky in the rearview mirror and the "Twinkle, Twinkle again Mama" was enough to keep me going, off key, and holding back laughter at how terrible my concert for one really was.

Amazingly, each chorus was sung with more and more conviction until, I believed, as my son believed, that that was the best that song could be sung.

The concert ended with the two of us serenading the crescent moon through the moon roof heading Northbound on the Gandy Bridge, he in his red striped jammies and me in my flip flops, three days after Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Idiosyncrasies of me

I remember two college professors, switching majors at least twice, one high school disciplinarian, a senior English teacher who would tell me not to cut but never acted on the infractions, a trig teacher who would show strange cartoons on the days he wasn’t feeling the numbers, a history teacher who’s known for being too friendly with one girl in particular but who never minds my frequent absences and a shop teacher – automotive – who allows trips to the Bagel Smith on days that I wear a dress, as long as I bring back a large coffee, black.

The house I grew up in is gallant, white, two-stories, yet simple. My parents call it “colonial,” I call it a prison, but not all the time. It rests at the top of a small hill, not large enough to get one in trouble with the Slip‘n Slide or a snow saucer like the Gilbert’s hill, which isn’t longer but steeper, making passing cars on a snowy day a worry for those in charge.

Cold gray slates lead to the front door, painted a glossy black to match the shutters. Its exterior is made of wavy shingles, and not those shingles that are pressed together ready to kill you, real wood with layers and layers of white, eggshell, off-white and antique linen paint just barely peeling off at the corners, only noticeable to those who may hide in the landscaping to say, evade Indians.

Its yard takes 45 minutes to mow if run on the rabbit setting, the back, all curvy and surrounded by woods, and the front, with a garden off to the side and many, many tall oak trees, presumably oak trees, both with a lawn so soft you can sit bare-legged and only get the thin impressions of grass like sheets on your skin. There, daddy-long-legs wander up stalks of grass, salamanders hide beneath the flat coolness of rocks and crayfish scutter beneath the crisp stream that separates our house from the Petrellas, the stream that has a thin wood board, flexible and wobbly, bridging the two, is just barely hidden at the edge of the woods.

Most importantly are the woods; these woods provide children with a place to create, to adventure, to discover. Many great stories, legends even, are what they are today because of these woods, the creek, the fallen trees, the vines, the hill, and the field that leads to the farm.

The street is like most other streets in the neighborhood. No yellow line, but no cul-de-sac either. A stop sign at each end, and if riding a bike from bottom to top, one may have to stand up.

The town has one stop light, two grocery stores and a brand new Drug Fair, from where I stole a rainbow eraser, felt so guilty that I had to bury it in the white pebble rocks directly outside. In the same strip mall is the only video store in town, a doll house store and a clothing store my mom’s friend owns, making the daughter my “friend.” To make it sound less tacky the people of the mall named it the “Mini Mall,” still tacky by my way of thinking.

To get as far away as possible, I plan to apply to schools all over the country.

“Maryland, Boulder, San Diego, South Carolina and Florida,” I inform my parents of the plan.

“That’s too far,” insists my mother while my father with a stern face shakes his head in agreement as if he is the one making up the rules, “the farthest you may go is Florida, no Boulder, and definitely no San Diego.” He has this funny thing about him where he agrees with my mother but yet only because the words have come out of her mouth.

I protest in the way I usually do, by shutting down and looking away, silently taking myself out of the conversation of which I no longer wish to be a part of, not that I really wanted to be a part of it in the first place. This was a trick I learned from my grandfather, Grandpa Durell, one that I have seen him do many times before.

Grandpa Durell wears a hearing aid, and at the dinner table when a conversation that he does not wish to take part in arises he simply takes his thumbnail and twists the tiny ridged, almost flesh-colored, knob and lowers the volume then with a smug satisfaction he continues eating the rest of his dinner, but not before sprinkling salt from the tall Tupperware shaker onto his hand only to then dust it to the plate beneath, unlike my father, he never tastes it first.

“When you’re at a meal with a potential employer, or client, never salt your food without tasting it first. This sends the wrong impression,” my father often says. “It says, ‘I don’t look before I leap. I’m a risk taker. Do you really want to hire me?’ That’s not the message you want to send.”
Then my mom normally chimes in with some comment to affirm what he just said, which is funny to me because he is normally the one saying, “Your mother is right, no television or phone until all of your homework is done,” or something of the sort, which, to kids, is the same as, “yeah, what she said.”

It’s not like I had a bad childhood, but I was a bad child, or as my therapist says, “I was lashing out.”

I was very good at lashing out. Whether it be over not eating a steak dinner, or not taking “No.” for an answer. I really gave my parents a lesson in how to deal with a difficult child. And it wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t like one day I tossed my ballet slippers aside and decided, ‘From here on out, I am going to challenge everyone.’ That’s not how it happened at all really.