I’ve always been fond of writing. As a young gal, I remember when I wrote song lyrics (yes, songs), poems, fiction and non-fiction stories, and then as I grew older, I began writing my thoughts down on paper in the classic lock & key diary. Now, its thoughts typed out in a classic Word doc. Writing was, and still is a way for me to not only cope with life’s challenges but allows me peace in channeling my creativity – essentially, it’s my happy place, yet sometimes, its my most awakening and uncomfortable place.
So, weeks ago, while chattering away on my weekday daily-mom call, she brought up that my dad came across a paper I wrote in high school while out in his happy place… the garage. Apparently, my typed-out words had him a little choked up. I knew right away what she was talking about – it was a descriptive paper I wrote in Miss Lopez’s Composition Class in 1993 as a senior at Central High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The “paper” was written about fond childhood memories of my grandma, his mom.
let me hear it
For nostalgic reasons, I asked if she would read the paper to me, which of course she did. As mom dove into telling my story, I fell back in time – toggling between the awkward teenage girl who wrote that paper and the little gal who treasured those times spent with her short, chubby grandmother. As her storytelling neared the end, her voice began to quiver oh-so faintly, she cleared her throat, pushed through and by the time she uttered that last sentence, we both (like my dad) had become a little choked up.
Instantly, I was flooded with memories, playing back my childhood timeline and feeling a plethora of emotions. On one side, I was heavyhearted knowing that my sweet grandmother never had the chance to meet my kids, to feelings of happiness and love that I had the honor of knowing such a special human who is also a genetic part of me.
the search begins
After our call, I searched high and low for that damn paper. While intently sifting through old birthday cards, letters from friends/ex-boyfriends and memorabilia of all kinds and not finding that paper anywhere, my attention sidestepped to a box of old photos. There I was, rolling back in time, and now my nostalgia grew to an obsession. I couldn’t break away – I was hooked on the reminiscence.
Going through all those old, dusty keepsakes housed in make-shift IKEA boxes had me reliving my past, from as early as five, six, seven and up through my late 30s. There were times I drifted right back to that moment in time. I recalled a friend’s betrayal, which was showcased in one 4×6 Kodak moment of four teenagers (three girls, one boy) looking all happy and without a worry in the world. Yet, low and behold, I had scratched out the face of one of those happy and worry-free girls with dark-purple ink. To boot – I earmarked that scratched-out happiness with an all-capped “WHORE” directly beneath that little bitch’s face… 😉.
Next, I traveled gingerly into my 20s, grinning ear-to-ear at pictures that captured the night of my 21st birthday in Spearfish, South Dakota – one of the greatest nights of my life. I felt such gratitude for not just great friends but also great fucking experiences. Then, with just a couple flicks of my pic-sorting wrist, I began to brood over the good and not-so-good times spent with my ex-husband with whom I share a daughter – she’s now 22. Pictures of happier, younger times overshadowed by memories of a brutal divorce and custody battle. I was both commemorating the joy of my first, true love yet flashing back to life-jolting moments that also surrounded the most devastating heartbreak of my life.
There I sat, crisscross applesauce on my bed, memorializing my life, while shacked up in my bedroom with all these archived relics strewn out in front of me.
didn’t find what i was looking for
However, I didn’t come across that paper, but I do know it’s around here somewhere – marked with a handwritten comment from Miss Lopez, who complimented my illustration of that childhood memory (YAY me!) alongside my letter grade (I got an A!). Thankfully, my mom hooked me up with a scanned copy of the pre-graded version, which I copied and pasted into this post for a glimpse into my younger years as a storyteller/writer.
And, as much as I wanted to edit the shit out of it, I left as-is, which is extremely hard for a perfectionist like myself. Yet, the grammatical errors, misspells and misplaced commas are a memorial to my sprightly writing days when I was just starting to find my voice, and my way. I suppose that makes it more powerful, at least I hope so.
I’m not sure what it is about self-isolation that has spurred all this nostalgia. In fact, for a short time following my walk down memory lane, my dreams were visited by people and experiences of long ago. Jumbled memories of past and present that collided with each other, playing familiar, yet strange and obscure scenes on the screen of my mind. It’s as though my journey back in time had summoned entombed memories and their corresponding feelings that were frozen in time and space.
my search continues
That day of recollection and sentiment changed something in me. I don’t know, maybe those resuscitated memories are colluding with the current state of our world. Regardless, my journey has shifted and I’m experiencing another onset of painful growth. A growth that has ignited weeks of insomnia, writer’s block, unhealthy eating habits and dark spaces of hopelessness.
And then… I remember when.
I remember when I was a young girl, riding in the Chrysler New Yorker with my mom en route to Spearfish, South Dakota to visit her parents for a couple weeks. On that first full day there, I would eat an over abundant amount of homemade cookies, baked goods, candy and basically any consumable item that was at least 95 percent sugar. Washing it all down with bubbly, liquid sugar, AKA soda. This indulgence silently brewed its rage in the first hours of slumber, then rudely awakened me with wrenching stomach pains that bent me right in half and eventually had me puking my fucking guts out. I would swear to never do it again the next “first day” there. Well, there were many more ‘I won’t do this again’ times. Eventually I learned, but it took a while – guess you could say I was (and still am) a glutton for punishment.
I remember when I was a young, dumb teenager who fell in “love” for the first time, making the decision to lose my virginity because I was the last of my friends who hadn’t made that final leap into “womanhood”. Only to realize after way too much time spent with the jackass that he was by far one of the shittiest first boyfriends a girl could ever have. He lied to me, cheated on me, belittled me, manipulated and controlled me. The worst part? I allowed it. Eventually, I kicked his ass to the curb, but found myself from that point on being strangely attracted to men who treated me like crap. Touché low self-esteem. Touché.
I remember when I really and actually fell in love for the first time. It was fucking magical. I have never felt so many euphoric feelings all at one time. Then, I remember when that love turned on me and broke my heart, my soul, my essence… shattered in to millions of pieces. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I morphed into a bitter, angry man-hater who swore I would never love that hard again… EVER. I remember when I finally let the last of that pain go, a staggering twelve years later. Better late than never, right?
Revisiting my past has certainly created a stir in my present life, and I’m paying attention to the Universe’s memo, which is to stay present, but to also use retrospection as a tool for better days.
Nonetheless, I’ve had some crazy times along this journey and although the waves of growing pains hurt like hell, they’re simply pangs of opportunity just waiting to fuel thoughtfulness, gratitude, patience and an overall appreciation for life and its fuckedupness. Essentially, embrace it all, even the suck.
So, I will continue to write, laying out my mnemonic woes as a reminder of my existence… former, current and impending.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my 18-year old story below; my Grandma Wilkinson was, and is very special to me, and although 29 years have passed, I still remember when.
“I love you grandma and thank you”
As I approached the screen door, I could smell the aroma of rhubarb pie baking in the oven. My dad persuaded me before him on the way into the house. With my overnight bag in one hand, and my favorite doll, Ms. Beasley in the other I stepped onto the carpet. The first instinct was to run to the back of the house to the room where I slept, the “blue room.” The blue room was the name given by my grandmother. The bright blue walls that of a clear sky, and the matching bedspread and carpet. I threw my belongings on the floor and proceeded to walk out.
Dad was gone by the time I reached the livingroom and there was Grandma with her hands on her hips. I can still see her brightly lit face and rosy cheeks. Her shiny gray hair sprayed to perfection with her glasses fit snug on her nose. She was a little chubby but in my case that was only more to love.
Walking towards the kitchen the scent of rhubarb pie grew stronger, and I headed for the basement. Since grandma was a retired teacher she had kept all her old worksheets and flashcards that could keep me busy for hours. Upstairs, grandma’s footsteps could be heard and whispers of her famous quote, “fiddle faddle.” These words were only said when something wasn’t working out, and that was usually while preparing supper.
I headed back upstairs to help set the table. Lawerence Welk played on the television and grandpa, grandma, and I sat down to a dinner that never ceased to amaze me. Grandpa always seemed to add spice to a dinner you think should be somewhat subtle. His awnry attitude could be overcome by grandma’s peaceful and caring ways. After dinner I would help and I was given the liberty of drying and putting away the dishes. The job was finally finished and we sat down so that the food could settle. The food she would fix could make you taste buds sing. Especially because all of this food was made with so much love.
Since it was a Friday night, Dallas was the show grandma loved to watch. Before the show started everybody jumped into something more comfortable. During Dallas we played a card game of spite and malice. Even though sometimes I would beat her in this game, I would never see any anger or frustration just happiness for my winnings. Grandma and I seemed to play for hours, and before long the night ended. It was then time for bed. She would tuck me in tight, and I would receive the biggest kiss on my cheek that felt so soft as cotton would feel on your skin.
Morning rolled around and the smells of breakfast floated into my room. I arose with a smile and stumbled towards the kitchen. The table was set and there was a big smile that greeted me. “Good morning dear, did you sleep okay.” Those words were said with such warmth and gentleness which brought a smile to my face everytime. The breakfast was delicious as always and there was more in store.
Saturday, was the day for grandpa to watch the fights on television and for us to shop. We would drive to the mall, and I still remember her barely able to see over the dash. When we reached the mall we would head straight for the toy store. There was never a time that I didn’t receive a toy. When we finally returned home it was again time to repeat those steps of the night before.
It was now Sunday the day to leave. Hugs and kisses were given and I said goodbye until the next weekend. Of course those days gradually faded away as I got older. I still kept in touch, and there were still birthdays and grandma’s famous rhubarb pie. Seasons came and went and I grew older, and of course so did she.
In 1989 the year that brought about bad news and many tears. Grandma had hurt her back, and she was sent to a hospital in Greeley. She had several surgeries to help her but it just made things worse. Finally she was sent home. In and out of hospitals, she then experienced two broken hips and many more surgeries. It came down to where she needed special care. Life Care Center became grandma’s new home and I began to see her fading away day by day. I didn’t see her as much as I should of, but it came to be too hard. 1990 came and went and brought the year 1991. This year was a year of great sorrow.
The day before her death, I couldn’t see a brightly lit face anymore I could only see pain and sadness. I remember looking into her eyes and saying ” I love you grandma.” I didn’t know those were the last words that I could ever say to her. There was so much to say, but so little time.
The next day of school was like any other day until sixth hour. I was called to the office, and something was telling me she had died. When I reached my mom’s office I knew, the same pain and sadness was seen in my mother’s eyes. I held her with streams of tears rolling down my face. She didn’t make it to my sixteenth birthday that was only two weeks away, but I know she was there in spirit.
Her funeral was open casket and to this day I can see her lying there so peaceful, and I know she went to a good place. Those weekends spent with grandma were the best childhood memories I will always hold and one more time I want to say, ” I love you grandma and thank you.”