Volunteer Roses

In the deep recesses of my front garden, I found a few spouts of volunteer roses.  They are covered with mildew, yellow and sickly.  It’s no wonder they haven’t previously poked their heads above ground in the poor, damp, sunless soil hidden behind my landscaping.  No rose could thrive.  My plan, once they are a little bigger, is to dig them up and transplant them into the rose garden in my backyard, where the sun shines bright on rich, fecund soil.   The volunteers will probably lose their leaves and die.  That always happens when I try to move plants to someplace better, the change is too much for them.

The rangy, stunted, forgotten and unloved volunteers in the front yard and their healthy, happy, desired and prolific cousins in the backyard make a noteworthy contrast.  Oh, how creating the right environment can make the difference in successful thriving.

I’ve been talking with my shrink about my childhood upbringing – two parents who didn’t want another baby,  a father who didn’t nurture or encourage me (and, frankly, intimidated and belittled me) and a mother who was too tired, busy, or downtrodden  to offer me the safe harbor and respite I needed from dad’s brutal and unloving parenting.

You know where this is going.  Today, I am the volunteer rose, weakly trying to raise my head towards the sun, but suffering from the consequences of being raised in my detrimental environment.  Will I always be stunted and emotionally rangy?  Is the damage too profound and will any attempt to move me towards a healthier situation cause me to die completely, unable to adjust to the warm sun and fertile soil?  Will I always fail to bloom?

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Childhood Memories

from pul.se

He glared at me filled with bitter rage, His 6’1” hulk towered over my child’s frame.  “Goddammit, you’re going to ride that bike and I don’t want to see you again for at least an hour.”

We were visiting my parent’s friends, Bob and Sarah, in Cedar City.  My brothers and sisters were old enough to stay home and bow out of this trip.  I was only 10 or 11 and had to go with them.  I was alone with my parents.

Bob, an older, retired man, realized I was most likely bored moping around their house while the adults sat around the kitchen table, catching up.  He offered me use of an old bike.  Scared of being a bother, I declined the first two times he brought it up.  By day five, however, I was going stir crazy and asked if he minded my using it.

I shrunk in horror when I realized the bike was located in the far recessed corner of the shed. “No, no,” I wanted to shout, “Nevermind, please, its okay.” Bob moved the mower out of the shed, rearranged the aluminum lawn chairs and wrestled the bike to the grass with a clatter.  My father looked on.

As soon as he set the bike down, I knew I was over my head.  It was a dusty, black men’s ten-speed and the top of the frame landed somewhere between my navel and my chest.  This bike was much too large for me.  I bravely took it over to the porch steps, swung a tentative leg over the center bar and took off – my feet didn’t touch the ground.  I rode it down the sidewalk without a hitch, but when I stopped to turn around, I instinctively jumped down, smacking my pubic bone hard on the center cross bar.

I dismounted the bike and limped my way back to the house.  “I think it’s too big for me,” I said as I brought the bike back to the porch.  My father would have none of it.  The malevolence that could flash from his eyes towards his own child always overwhelmed and shrunk me. I had inconvenienced Bob by asking to use the bike and I was expected to ride it now – to hell with safety or injury.  My father looked at me as if he wanted to squash me like a gnat if he could.

Upon waking this morning, I remembered this incident from my childhood.  I remember riding the bike back and forth in front of the clapboard houses, as I was commanded, dreading the end to the sidewalk where I must stop.  I tried using the fence to assist my dismount.  Almost every time, I bruised myself on the crossbar. I road the bike for an hour, came home, and didn’t ask Bob for anything again.

Crepes

In school the last two days, we made crepes – along with six or seven other French dishes. Crepes take me back to my childhood. My father didn’t cook very often at home, but he was an expert at weekend breakfasts. When my older sister eulogized him at his funeral, she didn’t talk much about what a great man he was (in truth, he was often difficult), but she did expound the merits of his breakfasts – fresh apple fritters, deep-fat-fried French toast, and crepes.

He had a special pan reserved for this one task of crepe making and was forever tinkering with the recipe – in quest of the perfect batter and the perfect technique. These light pillows of heaven usually encased fresh macerated strawberries or my mom’s homemade raspberry preserves. He topped each envelope of goodness with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or both.

I spent many a weekend morning watching cartoons with my “coffee” (half milk, half coffee and 3 heaping spoonfuls of sugar) and munching on dad’s famous crepes. I’m proud that I can now carry on the tradition.

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For Rent

The rain slides down the windshield as my car descends from the drive. My eyes are drawn to the sign on the house that reads, “For Rent. 4 Bedrooms plus Bonus Room.” My childhood home – described in seven words or less. This will be, perhaps, the last time I visit this house. I’m feeling melancholy, but I blame it on the rain. It cannot be the building. This house doesn’t contain my joyful childhood memories. Just the opposite – this edifice contains the memories of a child who felt unloved, a childhood of relative loneliness and much sadness; a childhood that spawned an adult who doesn’t feel whole. Strangely, it is, however, the house in my dreams. Twenty years after escaping it, it’s in my dreams when I dream of “home”. I’m not sure why I dream of this dwelling and not my current happy home– perhaps because my psyche, my baggage and my unhealed wounds were all born here, under this roof.

I wish the final closing of the front door and turning of the key could be a cleansing of sorts – a closing of a chapter. It isn’t – It’s all done so matter-of-factly. I don’t think twice as I walk away and yet, the sign catches my eye – my life, my childhood – for rent.