Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Can Handle The Truth

I heard Leaving on a Jet Plane the other day, and suddenly I was four years old again.  It was a sunny almost summer day.  I have short hair just like a boy.  I wish I could ask my mom what that was all about.  I'm wearing bell bottoms, a gauze flowered tunic and no shoes.  I know what that was about: it was the 70s.  The gold shag carpet feels groovy on my bare feet as I blaze a trail between my dad and my grandma.  I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad.  My grandma is visiting from Salt Lake City, but my dad is leaving.  Leaving not on a jet plane, but with a suitcase.  I'm not sure whether I've been told or just overheard that he won't be coming home soon, but he won't.  No, he is moving to a new home on Brady Street, but it may as well be Utah to me. 


The day my dad moved out is my very first tangible memory.  I see him walking down the iris-lined front walk alone.  I smell the yard filled with so many happy blooms, the acrid steely scent of the screen and something my grandma is cooking in the kitchen.  Stroganoff?  Chicken ala King?  I feel the cold mesh leaving impressions on my cheek as I press harder and strain to see my dad disappear from my view.  I also feel my heart breaking a little bit, and maybe some relief too.  And I hear this song.  Or do I?


I asked my brother about this Peter Paul & Mary number over the weekend.  Did it remind him of Mom and Dad?  Anything?  It doesn't.  To be fair he was only two then, but it got me thinking about memories.  They're so subjective and suggestive.  I wonder how much of that day was constructed after it occurred by stories and pictures.  I can barely recall what happened last week with any detail so I have little faith I can remember an event forty plus years ago palpably.  And yet I do.  I do. Does how I remember it matter any more than the fact that I do?  What I claim to know has affected who I am today, and at the very least it's part of my story.  An integral, often visited part.


There are so many stories I tell myself.  She betrayed me.  He broke my heart.  My friendship wasn't reciprocated.  I deserve better.  You deserve better.  I always wanted this, that, you.  I'm weak.  I'm strong.  I was right.  We were wrong.  There are so many things I am sorry for.  My life has been hard.  I am blessed.  There are times I wonder where the narrative ends and the truth begins.  And then I wonder...what does truth even mean?  Matter?


What do you absolutely know to be true?




Five minutes in my basement yielded this evidence.  It's a storyboard.  Random photos tossed in a box that come together to suggest my memory of that day forty-two years ago is at least somewhat true.

1. Family before.
2. Iris-lined lane.
3. Short hair, bell bottoms and screen door.
4. Gold shag carpet.
5. Family after.

Did I pick and chose to make a memory?  Enhance a memory?  Understand a memory?  I'll never be able to answer that, but I can say with conviction that I am sure it isn't important.  It's a defining memory of my childhood however it came to be.