October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment
All of my childhood memories — even the good ones — are enveloped in a dark, almost brooding, cloak of whatever form of dysfunctionality was coming to the surface at that particular stage of my life. I’ve never really given my past much thought until recently. I’ve had people in my past tell me that I force it down and ignore things about my childhood that I should find troubling. I don’t consider myself a very dramatic person. I’m not the type to dwell on incidents in my past. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a naturally resilient person or if it’s because I have a very bad habit or suppressing my feelings. It wasn’t until recently that I began to consider the possibility that it’s the latter. Whatever the case, so long as I’m sober and in an otherwise healthy state of mind I have no problem going back into my internal “vault” and digging up some memories that bring me back to a happy place. Even if, as I mentioned earlier, these memories do have a sort of dark tinge to them. So let’s go for it.
If someone were to ask me to summarize my childhood with one mental image, I’d put it this way:
It’s a bitterly cold, gloomy, November day. I’m in my dad’s truck. We’re driving to the union hall downtown on Prospect Avenue to get a free ham for Christmas. The inside of the truck reeks like my dad’s cheap cigarettes. I secretly try to hold my breath every so often because my teacher at school said that our parents should never smoke around us. Apparently it causes cancer or something. The dirty truth was that I loved the smell of a freshly lit cigarette. I wasn’t old enough to legally hold a job but I had become so accustomed to second hand smoke that it held some sort of nostalgic pull that I can feel to this day. Well, that and the fact that I probably had a minor nicotine addiction. Anyway my dad has the AM radio on way too loud. Through the static I could hear Jim Donovan calling the Browns game. A commercial for Mike Trivisonno comes on and my dad starts swearing under his breath about “that fat dag”(an old Italian slur). The harsh winter winds were strong enough to give you chills even as you sat inside the confines of the heated truck. It just looked cold. And speaking of the heat, my dad had it jacked up way too high as usual. I was wearing a winter coat but he had nothing but an old work flannel on. Much like the carcinogenic fumes of his cigarette, the sweat inducing heat of my dad’s truck was oddly comforting. On the way home I wait in the car while my dad runs inside Giant Eagle to grab some groceries. He leaves the truck running so the truck stays hot. I could have easily turned down the heat, or rolled down the windows to let the smoke out. But I didn’t. I liked it.
My dad gets back to the truck and he drops me off at my mom’s house. I won’t see him again for a week. I watch the rest of the Browns game (they probably lose) and then I run to my neighbor’s house to play backyard football. We play a game of one-on-one football for about a half hour before we get into an argument about a penalty or some other petty thing and then I call him a stupid polack and we get into a fist fight. A few bruises later and likely with one of us crying I leave and go home as if nothing happened.
It starts to get dark but you can’t really tell the difference between night and day. Once October hits, the sun hides from Northeast Ohio for about 5 months. I rush around and half ass the homework I supposed to be working on all weekend. I fall asleep with a tinge of anxiety because I didn’t want to go to school in the morning. I sing to myself for an hour or two before I fall asleep. I look out my window and squint my eyes at the streetlight until it starts to take on more interesting shapes. I look up at the sky and I can see a small break in the clouds that fill the night sky. Within that break I can make out a single star. I start to pray that someone out there is looking at that star at that exact moment. I pray that they feel what I’m feeling and understand why I fear everything I’m supposed to love. I pray that one day I meet that person and fall in love. Then I fall asleep.