Posts tagged "childhood/family"
Bewildered Passengers

Bewildered Passengers

Although no adult had declared it off-limits, the trainyard gave off the creosote smell of the forbidden. The place felt dangerous, with grass tall as our thighs, insects buzzing, grasshoppers springing this way and that in the brittle summer heat. It was the kind of place where I always seemed to end up with Patrick....
Main Street Revisited (Minnesota, 1989)

Main Street Revisited (Minnesota, 1989)

Walleye and sweet corn. Five Star and Pepsi on my father’s breath. That summer Lizzie and I waited tables at the breakfast and chicken joint while Emily, the preacher’s kid, worked the cafe down the street. Pastor Dan wasn’t out of the closet yet.  We walked booth to booth with hot coffee for the retired...
Constellations

Constellations

1. Dr. A, my mother’s handsome Bolivian neurosurgeon, lost his father on Everest. I pictured whorls of snow, a worthless compass and a man, stepping out into thin air. I was slightly in love with Dr. A, and so was my mother. Her first appointment, she said, “I know you’re married, but this is serious....
Simple

Simple

When I was seventeen, I spent a lot of time in another family’s home. We slept on futon mattresses back then, covered in flannel, with thick dark fabric over the windows. The beige carpet was scorched and melted dark where the frying pan of cigarette butts had tipped over to smolder. That summer, I lived...
Blood and Whiskey

Blood and Whiskey

There’s an old photograph of me and my dad, taken one day during hunting season. Daddy stands tall in the picture, his legs apart, the butt of his shotgun braced between them. The barrel points toward the wintry gray sky. He’s wearing his red-and-black plaid hunting jacket and a hat with furry flaps. His eyes...
The Mailbox

The Mailbox

The year is 1952. My mother spends her days stitched to a chair and stares out the kitchen window looking for my father, who has been on a drunk for two weeks. She worries he will come home and even though he has lost the front door key, will figure a way to break down...
Meanness   

Meanness  

One: I awoke to my mother’s weeping and walked over the jail bars’ shadow the Venetian blinds made on the kitchen floor. Her chest heaved as she smoked across from me at the table, sobbing about doctor’s bills and my father’s lousy job, how we were going to end up in the poorhouse like she...
What I Took

What I Took

From my mother’s house, in 1982, when I left for college—for good: her prized crimson cashmere sweater, which she never wore (Orlando, average temperature in January: 70 degrees Fahrenheit), the most collegiate item in our house, which I washed in warm water, which turned my t-shirts, sheets, and underwear pink, all of which I put...
Senior Moments

Senior Moments

Heavy double doors slowly swing open. A tall old man in a hospital johnny, stooped and gnarled, wanders the long hallway. My mother, half his height, pastel scrubs and permed hair, pulls me past him. “Sit in the day room with the residents. I’ve got to get to work.” Where my mother works, I follow....
At My School

At My School

The bathroom walls are a battle. Between dissent and Magic Erasers, between wrath and paint, between the kids and the janitors. I sit on the toilet and read—about the protests back in November, about the institution protecting rapists, about Chance the Rapper, about which Instagram accounts to follow, about whether or not Jeff Sessions is...
Good Faith

Good Faith

A house wren is making a nest in the wreath on our front door. When my wife and I want to go out on the porch, we make sure to knock on the inside of the door just in case the wren is there—just a little knock to warn her. We’re only six months married,...
Wishbone

Wishbone

We traveled cross-country by car every year. From New York to Utah, from Utah back to upstate New York. Every summer, the drive took days, endless scorching hot summer days. Our mother made sandwiches before we left and put them in an icebox underneath our feet. She placed a large round thermos with lemonade in...
Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage

My mother claims it was my brother’s bris that made her turn from Judaism. This was August 1965, at my grandparents’ place in Westport, Connecticut, where I spent each summer until I was eight. I was present that day, although I don’t remember: It is the back-and-forth where memory begins. What I have seen are...
The Salmon

The Salmon

Before today, I’ve been my sister’s helper. Last summer, I’d helped Cindy clean the Leggett Motel cabins scattered in the redwood grove just off the highway. The buildings are run down, porches sag, and the floors inside not exactly plumb. While the cleaning solutions burned our eyes, we’d scoured the bathtubs, the showers, and the...
From There to Here

From There to Here

Things you should know: Before my mother was the world’s best lesbian, she was the world’s best Jehovah’s Witness. She quit one to become the other; the two are not compatible. Before my mother was the world’s best Jehovah’s Witness, she was the world’s best stay-at-home mother. She quit one to become the other; the...
Roots

Roots

I’m sorry I couldn’t pull up those roots. The ones twisting under the pine tree that you and Mom planted when the two of you first bought the land and decided to build a house on it. The ones that, on a blurry August afternoon over a decade later, I tugged at desperately, really I...
Solstice

Solstice

On hot summer Sundays after church, my dad packed the Buick with a cooler, charcoal, and his scratchy old Army blanket. We left the badminton birdies on the lawn next to the racquets, left our bikes in the garage, left the garage door open. Those were the days before our bikes were stolen, before we...
Safety

Safety

I’ve lived my life in safe places, not at risk except for boredom and its associated disorders. The farm was safe, my room upstairs with my brother, the pale kitchen where we ate, maple cupboards my dad built, and the plastic table we inherited and still fold our clothes on today. I have no tales...