Don’t you love it when people say they remember what they were doing when they were 5 years old? Seriously? I mean, I could guess what I was doing: sucking my thumb, clinging to my blankie and conversing with my invisible friend Ghostie.
Naming your invisible friend “Ghostie” isn’t exactly imaginative I know, but hey, at least I had one. I did name my favorite stuffed animal (a small blue dog that was also a purse) Ruffkis Neptune. Now you have to admit that is an original name, right? But then I fell back on dull ways and named my other favorite stuffed animal Giraffie. Yes, it was a giraffe. If you wound him up his head would bend and Beethoven’s Fur Elise played. Weird.
But do people really remember things from their early years or are they putting together family anecdotes with images they can recall? We had a tumultuous childhood and I’d say I’ve blocked a lot of it out for mental health reasons. Although my sister and brother remember things I don’t and vice versa. When we remind each other of certain incidents it is like violent time travel. Whoosh! You are right back in 1978, shaking in your boots.
Speaking of boots, I do recall a little ditty I used to sing. Perhaps I was reminded by my family? Who knows, who cares? It went like this:
Oh when the cowboy went awaaaaay
In his pajamaaaas
But he forgot his toothbrush!
That’s it. I’m sure I had other dumb songs I made up that made absolutely no sense, but since I was never without my beloved cowboy boots, I guess that particular song became a hit.
What I do remember about my youth has no time line. They are images, smells, sounds and a general fog bank of uncertainty. My dad was a professor of Medieval Spanish History so our house was always full of Spanish students (from Spain) so I have a keen ear for Castilian, a ravenous nose for black tobacco and an irrational fear of clams in a bucket. They spit.
I remember uncomfortable clothing because back then kids weren’t allowed to run around looking like street urchins. Unless they were street urchins. One didn’t go to church in shorts and flip-flops. You had to DRESS: brutal patent leather Mary Jane’s, and ill-fitting dresses from Sears or I. Magnin. Mostly Sears.
Women always had their heads covered with scarves in church. Always! Men wore suits, boys wore ties, nuns wore habits.
I remember gardening every Saturday morning. No going to the movies or watching cartoons unless the ENORMOUS hedge out front had been trimmed, leaves raked, garbage out, rooms cleaned, chapters read from our novels, etc. Raggedy Ann & Andy was banned from our house because my dad didn’t think it intellectual enough for a 8 year old. Seriously. Hell, at least I was reading! What was a novel anyway?
So those are some of the things I remember from my pre-teen years. Mostly, sights and sounds, smells of Spanish cologne, cassoulet, and red apples.
I kind of hate red apples to this day. For a long time I couldn’t figure out why until I read a short “story” my brother wrote a couple of years ago. I will ask him for it and post it if he lets me. It will give you a scary view of our little lives.
Anyway, my dad always insisted on having a bowl of red apples on the dining room table, especially if company were coming. The whole house would have that sickening sweet smell. (I have to say I’m laughing hysterically while I write this. It isn’t funny at all unless you are truly demented…as I am.) We were never allowed to eat the apples because they were decor.
I remember the sound of my fathers penny loafers pounding across the hard wood floors. If you heard them coming toward your door you just knew you had done something bad…like eat an apple. After he left, my brother found a pair of the loafers my father had forgotten to take (he didn’t forget the tv, butthead). My brother being the natural comedian would come home very late at night after work, and put the shoes on just to scare the shit out of us. It was funny…in a very sick way. Other times he would put Benny Goodman on the record player…at 2 o’clock in the morning. So demented.
Mom had a Pucci dress, my grandmother wore Arpege by Lanvin and had very soft hands. My dad wore Yardley’s English Lavender and it’s hard to believe how much I still love the smell. (Sometimes one has to fight to enjoy something even when it brings back bad memories. It’s not the colognes fault.)
So maybe you remember what you were doing at 5 years old. I don’t. I can’t even remember what I was doing last week much less 40 years ago. How do people remember so far back? Are they expecting the cops any minute to alibi their whereabouts?