10 years ago
I'm taking a course on teaching writing this summer. This is the first freewrite for the draft of my autobiographical rough draft that is due soon.
When I was younger and company came over, I would hide under the green, brown and orange crocheted blanket, and peer through the holes. I would watch my mother serve iced tea out of tall glass with gilt filigree patterns flaking off from too many washes in an avocado green dishwasher. Ice clinked and conversation buzzed about like lazy flies. Looking through the holes, and being generally unnoticed, it is easy to see things in bits and pieces that approximate the whole, but are more expressive than the whole, because they are â€śnot entirely innocent of symbolism.â€ť
The white brick fireplace and its brassy screen, the grimy laces of yard-work tennis shoes, strangely placed ruffles on early eighties blouses with turquoise patterns and too short running shorts. And then company would leave, and the middle class utopia that was created when seventies crashed headlong into conspicuous consumerism became a fight over dishes and credit cards and whose friends were sitting on the couch earlier. Everything should have been marked his and hers. In the end it was an inamicable divorce, the first of most of my friends that sent me shuffled off to an even smaller town with even more cows. It was not a tragic event, as many would characterize it, but it did create a need to see things as part of a whole. My fatherâ€™s new family. My fatherâ€™s new home. My fatherâ€™s weekend. My fatherâ€™s money. My father stopped paying for anything but child support somewhere around my tenth birthday and it became an ongoing war which rather than be a soldier in, I became an embed correspondent.
Being a middle child, and my fatherâ€™s girl, I became obsessed with perfection and the beautiful order of rules. It occurred to me, watching my new second grade class swirl in paisley patterns around Mrs. Vergottenâ€™s classroom before the bell rang, that if rules were followed there would be fewer problems. I lived my young life on the straight line of right and wrong. I loved school and its clear expectations of when to talk and what to say, when to line up, when to eat and what to do in case of emergencies. Conversely, I hated recess and itâ€™s constantly changing social orders and the messy fashion guidelines and the chaotic energy release of tag and the monkey bars. I brought this love of rules home with me, and in so much as itâ€™s possible, my parents, separately, thought I was a good girl. Perhaps it was the last thing they ever agreed on.
All of this is what I was thinking as I stood on the fading whale grey porch of a patchy old farmhouse with missing or mismatched gingerbreading, looking for all the world like the teeth a third graderâ€™s school photo. My father had just sent me a hundred dollar bill for my nineteenth birthday. It was the only money I could ever remember getting from him, except for the occasional quarter to buy myself candy down the street at Ali Houssmeniâ€™s corner market. It was fall break, and I was at college. Being Columbus Day Weekend, Northampton was flooded with tourists out to see foliage, buy art, and pass through on their way to the Norman Rockwell museum, Historic Deerfield or the Yankee candle company. Having a job at the library, I found myself stuck in town with 100 dollars, no friends and few acquaintances. I had decided to pierce something. And it was at this moment that rebellion and rule following met to decide which part of the body was most suitable for man-made holes.