Saturday, August 23, 2008

Things my mother told me

I have this idea for a memoir. I hesitate to use the word memoir, because I generally find those to be shuddery-no-good. I am afraid that I won't be able to write it until my mother dies, but I am not sure.

When I was small, I believed generally everything that my mother would tell me. As anyone who knows or has met my mother, she is full of stories. Exaggeration is a family trait.

For example, when we were kids, my mother would tell us that a giant was searching for us and he only ate children. She would only tell us this when we would board a Metro bus. She would tell us that the giant had terrible eyesight and not much of a sense of smell, but he had very keen hearing. Any peep out of us and he would lunge down and rip open the accordion section of the bus like a sleeve of Ritz crackers (she would also tell us not to touch the heavy canvas of the accordion section of the bus where we favored sitting because we might lose our fingers which I solemnly believed. I was a somewhat solemn child.) and eat us, picking past the other people on the bus until his hands found us previously, quietly talking, then screaming children. I never asked her about other children on the bus. I somehow accepted that myself and my sisters were the only ones this particular giant desired. She would often tell us that we were "special" after all. We sometimes "played" this if my mother had a migraine, often after a bus ride. She would close all the venetian blinds or re-tack the multicolored 7-up "It's the uncola" sheet with huge orange flowers and electric lime zeppelins on it up over the windows. This would invariably, in my head now, be in the summer because it always made the room seem much, much hotter. But maybe it was only the way the blinds or the sheet glowed with the bright sun, the winter or autumn sun.

I don't think that my mother realized that this filled me with a certain sense of terror, a resolved and controlled terror. Although I was also competitive, even when I was 4 or 6 and so I enjoyed spiting the giant as I sat stonily willing my heart not to make any noise, glaring at my older sister if she tried talking to me, glaring at my little sister when she began to fuss with the heat.

My mother also sometimes told us to pretend that we were blind. We would put blindfolds on and I always peeped through or under the chink showing between nose and cheek. I started to just close my eyes, shutting them very tightly at first so my body wouldn't let me cheat which I very much didn't want, but then trusting myself. My eyelids would smooth out. I saw sunlight through them as I identified different items of clothing by touch, or memorized the positions of the living room's furniture. Sometimes we might have an afternoon snack this way, blinded. This is why I did a report on Louis Braille when I was in third grade. I was shocked to learn that he put out both eyes with an awl (this was when I learned what an awl was). I didn't understand how he could have put out both eyes, but the book told me that he did and so I knew that he must have done it. He went on to invent a way for the blind to read so I knew he could accomplish things when he wanted to. I was convinced that my blind "training" would help me just in case I accidentally put out my eyes with an awl or the scissors that my mother was always cautioning me about or a Tinker-Toy, like the one my brother punched through his soft palate when he was running around with it in his mouth. My mother referenced this often. She would always say, "I told him to take that thing out of his mouth," and that was all she said and like Greek myth it happened to him and I knew it could happen to me.

1 comment:

OCD OD said...

I love this story. I think you should write more of it, really.