Where do we go when we dream? Do we enter another world of
unexplainable time, where past and present mingle?
There is pleasure in seeing loved ones no longer alive,
nostalgia and amazement in visiting places from my childhood.
the nightly click of glasses
and neighborly talk
There is fear and anxiety as events unfold not as they
happened, but jumbled and disastrous. Failure in school, missing the last bus
at midnight, driving alone and hopelessly lost on a dark road, an intruder in
the house. There is confusion when I appear as an adult with husband and family
in my hometown. No one has died and the neighborhood is the same, only I have
changed. What does it mean when I must walk in the ocean to reach my
destination, drive along a road with a steep precipice on either side, walk
barefoot and coatless in snow or climb mountains of mud? Where am I? Where do I
classroom door, I hesitate, unsure, anxious.
Softly crying, “I want to go home.”
Inside, a young
teacher. Slender, soft voice, pretty
hair, pretty dress. Still… “ I want to
must leave. It will be fine.”
No. Not fine.
or you'll get a spanking."
I don’t like her. She’s shaking me and she’s not pretty. My new shoes slip across the floor as she
pulls me to a place on the rug.
children, all looking. Beginning to
sniffle, whimper, cry. Getting
louder. I’m louder still.
“HOME…WANT TO GO HOME!”
A different voice. Deeper.
Older. A giant in a dark dress. Stiff gray hair pulled back and steel gray
eyes behind steel-rimmed glasses. She’s
pulling me to the front of the room, to a chair where she sits. Lifting me up and over her knees. A brown leather strap in her hand, like
Grandpa uses to sharpen his razor. One
Whack! Across my bottom.
going to stop that noise?” she asks, “Or do you want another spanking?"
Silence from the
other children. The giant and I look at each other. I don’t like her, either,
but I say nothing. Sniff back the mucus
and rub tears from my face. And still say nothing. All morning, I say nothing.
school is over, a summons to the principal's office. The giant again, sitting at a large desk.
"For being a good girl the rest of the morning,” she says.
There is a lot of country in the country.Meadows and farms.Vineyards and orchards.My head swivels.Left, right. Up the brightly colored hills
and down the roads.
In the car's wake, leaves swirl.Ponds and lakes offer up clear
reflections.A mélange of colors and odors–manure,
hay, wood smoke. Today is different from yesterday, as tomorrow will be
different from today.
It's a rundown Victorian converted into six apartments. Our
daughter has a one bedroom flat on the second floor. The stairs wobble and
creak. The oak banister, grimy and sticky, is loose. Hallway paint is peeled
away exposing bare plaster. The dim ceiling light is out half the time. The
Bates Motel our son calls it.
Stepping into the flat is a step into an earlier time. The
walls are a pale yellow, decorated with animal and flower prints. The mahogany
mantel is polished to a high gloss. The gray marble fireplace surround gleams
with specks of white and blue. The shiny brass fire tools reflect the sun
pouring in from the high windows which are hung with lace curtains. Beyond the
windows is a balcony with a wrought iron café table set and window boxes filled
with red geraniums.The view…the view is
of the Hudson River and a Technicolor sunset.
Daily headlines in the local newspaper:POLIO.INFANTILE PARALYSIS.POLIOMYELITIS.Whatever it is
called, it's talked about in whispers.Like a dirty story.
Beaches, parks, movie
houses, all remain open.Hardly anyone
goes. It's in the air; on the benches; on the toilets. Stay home.Stay inside.And so we do
On one Sunday
afternoon my father can take only so much of my sister and me.He reasons that with most of New Haven
staying home, it would be safe to venture out. And there we are, tripping off
to the beach on the open-air trolley. Anticipation mixed with disappointment.
No one singing or laughing, no large party groups out for a good time.
The beach at Lighthouse Point is nearly empty. Only four or
five families.And a lonely lifeguard in
his tower. We spread our blanket, yards away from anyone else.
"Stay away from them," my father warns."Don't play with those
We hadn't played with anyone since Billy O'Hara was rushed
to the hospital by ambulance two weeks earlier.Will we get sick?Will Billy die?
Rumors rolled down our street like a loose ball.He's dead already.He's alive. He's paralyzed.He's in an iron lung.He's only 10 years old.
crisp day.Here and there a splash of
red, a tinge of yellow. In the maple, one thick branch glows golden.The rest remains green. The coloring on most
trees is random, almost quixotic, except for the dogwoods along the fence. They
look to be painted by an artist obsessed with symmetry, dark red on the tips of
the leaves, dark green towards the stems. Each tree a copy of the others.
heat. The old man with dazed eyes accepts an ice cream. The first taste sends a
flicker of acknowledgement and pleasure. Although I don’t know this man or the
woman who is helping him, I feel the sting of tears.
I am afraid to
see myself in his role, afraid to think of a life imprisoned by mind and body,
afraid to think of needing constant care and attention.
After several days of heavy rain, dawn comes up dry. The
sun, as it rises, evaporates the beads of water on plants, the puddles in the
driveway and the soggy low places on the lawn. Pines gradually lift their rain
heavy boughs until they are again well above my head. The breeze is warm; the
sky is a spotless blue stretching into infinite space.
The teenage girl
sits on the café stool and orders a latté and a muffin.A pretty face, smooth and rosy, long light
brown hair silky like a cocker spaniel’s.Her short tee-shirt rides up higher as she moves her arms.Her tight jeans slip lower, lower, revealing
inches of flesh and a peek at where the flesh divides.
She chats on her
cell phone.No pausing to swallow her
muffin.Bite, talk, swallow, talk,
drink…So much to say.So much to hear.All the news.Hurray. Pass it on.