When I read books where the author is recounting conversations from their childhood, or even from a few years ago, I am always astounded at the way they can recall memories. I am saddened most of the time at how poor my memory is. My brother will tell stories in the greatest detail about growing up, or my crew mates will recall what airport they were at & where they were headed to with full names of their crew when such n such happened. I listened to an audio book recently by Trevor Noah where he recalled stories and conversations from when he five, and although I know much of an autobiography is placing words into memories, I still listened in awe, and wondered how the hell he could recall so much. But there are indeed memories from far back that do live in me, and they are beautifully vibrant. Most of them have to do with my brother.
When we moved to Chamberlain Rd, I was seven, my brother Matt 18 months older. My dad had a mental health facility in the valley and was gone from the normal hours of 9-5. My mother worked at Vons, so she had varying hours, but Matt and I were considered "latch-key kids"- the term back then for kids who let themselves into the house on their own after school because their parents both worked full time. Everyone would be home for dinner, however when my mother would have the perfect proportions of protein, carb and veggie waiting for us each night. The four of us sat in the same seats around the kitchen table for over 10 years; My dad closest to the shoebox-sized tv, my mom next to him, me across from my dad, and Matt next to me. Our dinner, without avail, was timed around Love Connection which started promptly at 6:00. When Chuck Woolery came on the tube, we would all stop talking and watch the next lineup of potential lovers tell the audience about their blind dates. When Chuck gave the good ol' "We'll return in two and two!", my dad's fingers raised in unison with Chuck's and turned the volume knob all the way to the left, proceeding to ask us about our days. Sometimes, we'd be in mid-sentence when Chuck appeared again, the volume would rise, we would pause, and everyone would start cheering again for our favorite date-worthy candidates. Before dinner, however, it was up to me and Matt to entertain ourselves, and honestly, I do not know how we survived childhood.
My school was at the bottom of the cul-de-sac hill we lived on, so I was walking to and from school at the age of 10. My brother took the bus to a different district. We lived at the very tippy top of that cul-de-sac, which also happened to be the steepest hill in Pasadena. Whenever I would complain about walking home and beg my dad to pick me up, he would say, "You've got two Cadillacs on the ends of those legs!" Every single time he would say that, but it didn't stop me, I would continue to ask. (I thank him today because I think I have a pretty firm butt and legs because of it!) One time, when I thought I saw a polar bear on my way home, I told my dad and said that I was scared and that he should pick me up from now on because it would suck to get chased by a bear. He didn't budge. It's funny, I can still pull up the visual of seeing that polar bear, just as if I were looking at him now. Large, white, some kind of red collar or scarf around his neck, walking slowly (as a bear does) up the street towards me. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, it was so clearly a polar bear! I remember standing there for a few short seconds to get a good look at it, then my curiosity faded and I just turned the opposite direction and started to walk briskly (because I knew if you ran the bear would chase you) up the hill to the top of our curvy road panting in fear. There were many times where I had frightening experiences while walking home, most of them had to do with animals. Which, is odd, because I am a huge animal lover and am hardly afraid of any creature. When I lived in Africa, I would let leopards climb on my head and pull my hair with their teeth. Maybe facing the fears of those childhood predators helped me to cope with fearful beasts in the future.
...to be continued...