Monday, June 11, 2012

Fuzzy Recollections

I suspect we all have them: memories that are nowhere near complete. Things we've seen or interacted with that remain nothing more than a sort of fuzzy, cobwebbed memory of something from our past. For me, those imperfect reminders are naught but bits and pieces that seem to have no beginning and no end. They just are. I don't know what came before nor what went after. My only recall is that fraction of time in which my brain logged something in but forgot to save all the details surrounding the event.

I know I've seen the Aurora Borealis. I know I was little and the night was as black as night can be, so I know we weren't in a town but likely on vacation in Northern Minnesota--my parents favorite get-away.  I vividly remember seeing glowing pink and green lights streaking across the sky. Not moving. Just sitting there. I remember my dad pointing at the lights and telling me how lucky we were to see them because they were rare where we lived. I recall he told me they were The Northern Lights. End of  memory

While I don't remember having a dog, I do recall
one short moment inside the cabin.
I know my parents had a cabin by a lake because as I grew up, I heard tales about going there on weekends. I recall a night when we drove and drove and stopped in front of a dark building. Mom carried me inside and set me in a chair. All I recall is that the walls were wood; the fireplace of stone. End of memory. Years later, when I told mom I remembered that cabin, she took issue with me, saying it was impossible as I was only eighteen months old. But I know what I know. Even today, I could draw a fuzzy semblance of what I saw from the chair she sat me in. Isn't the mind an awesome entity?

Dad and me at seven, during happier times
I remember that my dad took me hunting with him when I was about seven, I recall it was a sunny, winter day and the snow wasn't deep, just pretty. I definitely recall walking through the woods. As I think back, I'm pretty sure I had no idea what "hunting" entailed. I was just with my dad and having a good time. I stopped to watch a cute gray squirrel playing in the snow. Then there was the most horrific noise, almost ear deafening. While I was trying to figure out what had happened, I saw the squirrel laying beneath the tree and blood on the snow. End of memory. I was an adult with grown children when my dad told me the rest of the story. I'd gotten hysterical to the point where he couldn't stop my crying, screaming, and running wild. Little as I was, I was more than dad could handle. He said he drove me home, handed me off to my mom and said, "Here, you do something with her; I can't."  I remember nothing after seeing the blood on the snow. Even telling me the details brought back no memory. What I've come to after all these years is that a child who absolutely adores animals should not be exposed to hunting them, that the reason I hated the book Bambi was because the story was too real to what I knew, and that my intense fear of guns stems back to when I was a child.

I absolutely do not remember falling into the lake. What I do recall is that I was about 8 or 9 and we were at our favorite vacation resort. I saw fish swimming by the dock that went far out into the water so I took a cane pole I saw lying on the dock and thought I'd catch some fish to eat. I remember that the line had a hook and a bobber, but the hook would only float on top the lake. I kept reaching out further and further with the end of the pole, trying to push the hook under water. I remember quite vividly putting my toes far over the edge of the dock, trying to extend my reach. End of memory. When I came to, I was lying on the dock and a whole bunch of people were standing over me. Since I'd been the only person on the dock at the time, I was told that someone had seen me fall in and rushed to pull me out. I have no recollection of falling in or thrashing around or swallowing water. Mom always told me that I drowned that day so I've always been grateful that someone pulled me out and got me breathing again.

Sometimes I wonder how many more cobwebbed recollections my brain bank holds. I've heard that times of trauma wipe out the memory, but most of my fuzzy memories don't stem from any kind of trauma. What I have come to believe is that the human mind is mostly unexplainable. The brain saves bits and pieces of information but not always the whole story. Intriguing, isn't it? Especially since I know that some of my hazy memories are from my very young childhood.

I suspect each of us has cobwebbed recollections residing in our memory. Recollections that do not tell a whole story, yet reveal to us that we lived through something we barely remember. What sort of fuzzy reflections do you have? Write and tell me about them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grammie's Room

Her room always smelled of powder and perfume. It wasn't an overwhelming scent but a gentle, soft smell that enticed a little girl to investigate, even though I knew stepping even one foot inside the door would mean big trouble if I got caught.

The problem was, there was just so much to see that tantalized my eyes. Right in the middle of the bed sat the cutest little puppy with coal black eyes. I didn't even care that it was created of long strings of white yarn. It called to me to pick it up and hold it close. I got into big trouble for that one. And another admonition that Grandma's bedroom was off limits and not a place for playing.

Perhaps it never would have occurred to the small child that I was to investigate Grammie's bedroom except that the only bathroom in the big old two-story house was on the second floor and getting to it involved passing right by Grammie and Pa's door. It also didn't help that Grammie always left the door open. Sometimes I'd just stand in the hallway and look in. Other times my curiosity got the best of me. That's when I employed either my middle sister or my only boy cousin (at the time) to stand guard. But that didn't always work out either. But more about that later.

The thing was, there was just so much to see that deemed closer inspection and nearly all of it was easy to spot from the doorway. Grammie had this piece of furniture she called a "vanity" and the things that sat on it were all sparkly and God knows, little girls  love sparkly. Well, at least this little girl did. And that vanity sat right inside the door so it took no more than three child steps to be standing right in front of it and if I thought Grammie didn't realize I was upstairs, maybe I'd even have time to sit on the bench and get an up close look at those glittery things.

The mirror, brush, and comb were all silvery. I thought they looked like something that should have belonged to Cinderella's step-sisters rather than my Grammie, but there they were, just begging to be used. I'd grab the brush and run it through my blond hair, then pick up the mirror to see how I looked--never mind that there was a big mirror over the vanity. Behind the hair things stood a small silver box, sort of high and round, and no amount of looking at it would tell me what it was. I'd not seen anything like it before and try as I might, my little kid brain couldn't come up with an answer. So I reached over and removed the top.

That's when the music started. It was a lovely little tinkly sound, but so muted I figured nobody but me could hear it. Inside the container was powder. How disappointed I was that it held nothing more glamorous. Surely I pictured it must be a hideaway for jewelry or rings or even a bracelet. But powder for a lady's face. How boring. I put the cover back on the box and made my escape. I figured I was maybe going to be a good detective when I grew up. Fearless. That's what I was. I'd investigated Grammie's room and not been caught.

I told my middle sister about my discovery and promised her that the next time we visited Grammie and Pa, I'd take her upstairs and show her my find. I explained the best I could that Grammie had a silver box that played music but I didn't think she took me seriously. The next time I saw my cousin Stevie, I told him too. I don't think he believed me either. Grammie and Pa weren't rich. We knew that much. Pa drove a school bus and Grammie stayed home and cooked and cleaned and did laundry and stuff like that. But I'd seen those silvery things with my own eyes. I was determined to prove I wasn't making stuff up.

I don't recall when it was that we were all at Grammie and Pa's again, but I do vividly remember telling my sister and Stevie that when the coast was clear, I'd take them up to Grammie's room and show them the box that played music. The three of us played out in the yard, colored in the always-present coloring books Grammie kept for our entertainment, and when I figured we were safe, I whispered, "Come on," and without a word, the two followed me up the stairs. I thought I'd show my sister first for I knew she would love the sparkle too. We made Stevie stay in the hall to keep watch, promising him that he'd be the next one in the room to see for himself.

The problem was, Stevie wasn't a good watchman. He was too interested in what my sister and I were up to so he stuck his head inside the door while keeping his feet in the hallway. Poor guy, the only boy cousin among six girls. If he wanted to play at all, he was stuck with us. We didn't mind though. He was always up for any sort of mischief I could think of, and what with me being the oldest of all the cousins. I figured it was my job to educate the rest of the tribe.

As I'd promised them, the box played music as soon as I removed the top. We all listened to it, thinking there was something magic about a silver box that played a song. We got lost in ourselves. And the moment. And the tune. And that's when it happened.

I'd lost track of time. How long had the three of us been missing? I had no idea. Not only that, I let the song play way too long. I was glad Grammie was downstairs in the kitchen, busy cooking something or other. And that's when the three of us heard it. "YOU KIDS GET OUT OF MY ROOM." Her voice floated up from the foot of the stairs. You never saw three kids scramble as fast as we did. I threw the top back on the box and we all went clomping down the stairs.

I figured there was no use lying. We'd been caught. I explained that I had wanted to show the other two the music box because they didn't think I was telling the truth about it. That's when Grammie looked at me with that Grammie face and said, "You thought you got away with being in my room the last time you were here, didn't you?" I must have looked guilty. At least as guilty as a small child can look for she said matter of factly, "I heard the music playing."

Guilty as charged. I do have to admit that there were a few times later on when I ushered other cousins into Grammie's room to show them the music box, but I never left the lid off long enough for the tune to carry down the stairs. Or so I thought. I got caught time and again. The only reason I think I ever got by with it was because we never messed anything up or opened any drawers or sat on her bed or picked up her yarn dog. The most we ever heard from her was:


Gotta love a Grammie like that.