I think I can. I know I can. I will.
As Far Back as I Can Remember
My first memories are of simple things. The first day of kindergarten when everyone cried but me. Trips to my Grandma's house in all kinds of weather and how good it felt to be there. Chasing my cousin Michael's friends around the walnut tree, trying to catch them to kiss them. Playing baseball with all the boys in the yard of the empy house across the street. The hot summer, eating cereal out of plastic cups and dirty carrots and yummy green beans out of my Grandma's garden; having a drink from the hose to avoid going in for fear of not getting back out into the sunshine or the setting sun. Playing kick the can on summer nights and hiding under the back deck with my cousin Michael, listening to the crickets chirp their summer song. The cats in "the back bush" who would come out once in a while looking mangy to see if anything and been left for them by my gentle, yet tough Grandma.
My Grandma, my paternal grandmother, played a large part in my childhood. She lived 45 minutes away from us in a small town centered around a warm, clear lake. She had been born there, both of her parents were Italian immigrants and she was the third from youngest of eight children. The house she lived in was the house my Dad was born in, the house my great-grandfather (my Nono) built for himself and my Nona to live in. This all sounds very country, and maybe it was in 1948 when my Dad was born, but it is now a hot spot for summer tourism. Makes me feel kind of sick and desperate to be there now - even just driving through - for so so many reason.
When I was a kid, my Grandma had a garden that took up most of her yard. I did not know it then, but she did not have much of an income and so she was very industrious about how to feed our family. My three cousins (Wayne, Paul, and Micheal) lived with her and we (my parents, my brother, and I) spent almost all of my Dad's days off there. It was such a nice feeling of family and togetherness. There was always someone to play with - even if I was the only girl - and always something delicious for dinner and a warm bed to crawl into at the end of the day.
My cousins' mom died of what they think was an anyerism in June 1970 when Micheal was about six months old. Paul 2. Wayne 5. They went to spend the summer with my Grandma and stayed forever. I am glad, for me, that they did. I cannot imagine my childhood without them in it. My Uncle Ted (my Dad's brother, their Dad), lived in Vancouver and came to the Lake almost as much as we did - weather permitting. We all had our own "home" on my Grandma's property. Honestly, it was magic.
Summer was nice and winter just as much so. My Grandma made the worst mashed potatoes (dry and crumbly beacuse she did not like milk and used butter sparingly) but the best Christmas baking ever. I miss her. A lot. When I close my eyes and try to remember other things to write about her and her home, I can't remember things so much as smells. The lilac bush between her house and our cabin, the wood fire she used to heat her place in the winter, the bread she was almost always baking, cigarette smoke from her funny little cigarettes rolled with rolling papers. Or I hear sounds, the sounds of the grown ups laughing at the adult table over Christmas dinner, the hens clucking in the chicken coop as they work to lay the eggs we are going to snatch out from under them for our breakfast, the big trucks going down the nearby highway at night, or my favorite Grandma sounds - her plastic bottomed slippers shuffling on the floor and the sound of her whistling between her teeth.
My Dad said to me once that memory is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. I try to remember often. For me it is something like watch a TV show in my imagination. I like to look back on the past - not to relive it, or feel sad about its passing but to keep it alive. I have lived so much in my 38 years, and I am just now slowing down and thinking - whoa. Am I half way there?
I am 38. Seriously? I have a hard time believing it. That is old enough to be a grown up but somehow I do not feel like one - not even on a good day. I was born in March 1973. My little brother arrived in January 1975. We lived in a little house on the hillside, not far from where I live now, and then moved to a more prestigious neighborhood, to slightly bigger house, when I was three. My parents still live there.
To be continued...