Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Red and White House
This is the first house that I remember. It is fall. I smell the Windex as Mom sprays the television screen generously. I watch the streaking of colors that interrupt my daily cartoon routine. I am temporarily mesmerized by the slashing of brilliant hues across the smudged, fingerprinted screen. I like to feel the static on the television screen. It is fuzzy and my hand bounces on it until it shocks me. It is morning. She cleans and listens to Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton. We live in the little red and white house. Dad painted the house. I suppose he chose the colors to honor the Hoosiers. Windy and I lay on our bed procrastinating the inevitable nap to come. Feet pressed together, we cautiously giggle as our legs become a human bicycle. “Roll over!” I knew that she would catch us; I heard her footsteps rounding the corner. We quickly remove our feet from the air and face opposite sides of the room. I stare at the light streaming in through the blinds illuminating the crayon murals on the wall as I impatiently wait for sleep to take me. It is almost summer. The smell of lilacs is present. I hear soap operas in the living room. Mom makes sun tea on the back porch as the clothes are whipping in the wind on the line. The windows are open and the house feels ready. There are horses in a barn next to house. Windy talks to them and prays for a mouse that she saw in there last week. She doesn’t want it to get hurt. She is so sensitive, caring, and innocent. I miss her. Mom assures her that the mouse will be fine. He has a home inside the barn and is okay. Windy takes her words and uses them to get her past this moment. Although, she really thinks it would be best if she went in and rescued the helpless creature herself. In a lot of ways, she turned out a lot like that little mouse trapped in a world with hooves clamoring down, promising to end your life in an instant. It is the afternoon. We have a little pool in the front yard, the plastic ones with unbelievably hard sharp edges. I watch the grass blades whirl in circles around the edge. I wipe them off of my shins and run in the grass. The train is coming. Windy comes running as her long brown hair flips around her sunburned shoulders. She has a crush on the train man, Mike Astoll. I see a look on her face as the tanned, light haired, masculine fellow approaches. She is shy. She smiles and her beautiful crooked teeth peek out from behind the curtain of her lips. She says nothing. I tease her. Mike says a few words to Mom on the porch and it is over. We play in the pool. I start kindergarten. I refuse to eat my cereal because I can tell Mom had to use evaporated milk again. She tried to hide it. I am proud of myself for figuring it out, while unaware that she probably felt defeated. Not defeated because I figured it out, defeated for having to use government issued evaporated milk. I get dressed for school. I think it is a place with flowers and candy where we play in a maze of a garden. I was wrong. I beg her not to leave. I can tell that she really doesn’t want to. She leaves. I find my place on the letter circle. Mrs. Hiatt has a warm smile and a soft voice. We sing “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad.” I like Adam Hiatt’s crayon box, it is wooden with his name engraved in gold. I have a cardboard flip top box from the dollar store that Mom let me pick out. I am ungrateful. I look forward to milk time, even though it’s lukewarm. I make Mom walk me to the doors at the school until 3rd grade. I hate to leave her every time. Mom had Patty Myers take me home from school once. She dropped me off and headed up the street to her house. The door was locked. I felt fear and panic. My heart was pounding and it was hard to breathe. Then, I saw Mom and Windy in the yellow station wagon. They drive slowly past the house. I start running and trying to scream but the tears are welling up preventing anything from coming out. I am trying to catch them while my backpack sways side to side slowing me down. I drop it. They leave. I run up to Joe and Dodie Smith’s trailor. I am sobbing. Joe goes and looks for Mom while Dodie calms me down. It smells funny in their trailor. Mom comes and gets me and says she is sorry. She tells me that she thought I was a raccoon. I am confused but overwhelmed with relief to be back in her arms. We took the yellow station wagon to watch Ghostbusters at a drive-in theater. We folded the back seat down and Windy and I watched until we fell asleep. Slimer was my favorite. He was nice and not scary. Mom and Dad find a note from Mrs. Hiatt in my bag. They talk softly and look apprehensive. We go to meet with Mrs. Hiatt later. She brings out a drawing that I did of Dad. They talk with me about the drawing, asking me questions. What is he doing? Where is he going? Then they point to the drawing and in a sober tone ask me specifically what this is... “his tie” I replied. They laugh and act as if this whole thing was foolish. Once, when I was at school, Dad killed a snake with a shovel. I was jealous as Windy recounted the excitement of the event. I felt alone as they told me about how big the snake was and remembered all of the details. I wished I had been there and hated that I was at school. It is winter. We are watching television after dinner. Mom made salmon patties and cherry cobbler. I liked to crush the little round bones in the salmon with my fingers and I only eat the crust and cherries in the cobbler. I don’t like the soggy bottom. We see headlights in the driveway. Mom opens the door. Windy and I are pressed against the icy glass of the screen door. We watch as a woman in a long coat walks up our sidewalk with brown paper bags in each arm. She is our Christmas angel. The light and exhaust from the car made her look like she was walking out of the clouds of Heaven. She brought us toys. Dad helps her with bags and many thank yous are spoken. Windy and I sort through the toys, ecstatic with our surprise. That Christmas I opened a present when I wasn’t supposed to. I waited until everyone went to sleep. It was small and wrapped in red paper. It was perfume for Mom. I tried to rewrap it and put it under the tree. I hid it instead. Mom asks me later if I did this, I lie to her and tell her no. She let it go.