How far back can you remember? I have some memories of the small town I was born in: the fire station with the donut shop next door, the orphanage with a farm where we visited most weekends, the rodeo practice grounds and the route I walked to school to take my older brother and sister their forgotten lunch money.
I don't remember when I was the baby of the family.
I remember making mud pies, but not that I was constantly getting in trouble for eating them. Everyone says it was so.
I don't remember when I quit being "the baby." I only remember when we were four.
I don't recall the puppy, or knowing that we were poor. I remember that the steps were scarey and broken down, and that I was often told to go out, then come back in without slamming the screen door. I wasn't raised in a barn, you know!
I don't recall the doll and highchair, but I remember sleeping in pin curls every Saturday night, and on the eve of every special occasion.
I don't recall when Mom was young and slim, but I can recall a lot of identical dresses that she made for me and Sis.
I remember how lucky I felt to get the hand-me-downs and wear those special dresses an extra year or two, but it took a stroll through old photos to remind me that mine always drooped off of my right shoulder.
I remember the year Mom made detailed costumes, too, and how lucky I was to get a Patty Playpal and a nurses bag to go with mine. It must have been the same year that Sis discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can't recall those stairs ever being uncarpeted.
There are bad memories in there, too. The world didn't know much about manic-depression back then, or understand the terrible impact it could have on children whose mother could go from blissfull happiness to whacking off your hair in a frenzy when you said you wanted to have a pixie haircut like your friend. I know I quit wearing her homemade dresses about that time. I was old enough to notice that they had become bizarre and clownish.
Everyone's father drank, so we probably assumed that everyone's father passed out in the living room or the yard or the car each evening. We probably thought he was just tired because he worked so hard. There are no pictures of that, of course.
What we did understand, and what I choose to remember the most, is that we were four, and that we always knew we were loved.
I remember that year when I got my first bike. It was the same year that Mom told me the big secret that I was never, ever to tell anyone. I had always been her favorite.
It was many years later that I realized that, despite whatever failings she may have had, she was wise enough to tell that same secret to each of the four of us.
Labels: family, memories, photos