Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On letting go of the things of your childhood... or not.

First, somebody posted a link on facebook and contained within that link was a video. I made my guy promise not to want to do what was in the link (and video) before I showed him. He hesitantly promised with disclaimers and caveats and I played the video and at the end of it, as I was all, "Isn't that disturbing?" he was all, "Why are you so selfish?"

The video.

But imagine how the world would change if this was possible? (I'm being vague to force you to watch the video. :D) It would change the perception of this because I would imagine if men could do it, they'd do it far less ashamedly than women do now.

Right?

And really, if the quality ends up actually superior...

Why am I so selfish?

(It's still really weird.)

(Really weird.)

(But seahorses...)

In other news, while I was at my dad's cottage this weekend, I saw the painting my grandparents' friend had painted of the old cottage a long time ago. Before the treehouse my grandfather built in the multi-branchy tree out front and before anything changed, he captured it all perfectly. And as I looked at that painting, I couldn't help but feel it. Sitting there, across the room at my grandmother's table, I felt the intricacies of the old cottage in that painting.

The way when we opened it in the spring, unbagging the dishes after cleaning the mouse residues out of the cupboards and dropping the dock into the lake (chores, of course, assigned by sex, not by ability), somebody would always get up on one of the old yellow dining room chairs and open the highest window in the middle. That window would stay open all summer and as it was opened, it'd hit the seagull chimes and get snagged. Every year. And whoever was doing it would unsnag the chimes and finish opening the window and have to untangle the birds thereafter.

The way the brown octagon and square patterned linoleum felt under your bare feet (sandy) before my grandmother or an aunt told you to put your shoes back on so your feet wouldn't turn black.

The sound the green and white curtains made in the evenings when my grandfather shut them because the neighbors were always watching. (My older cousin posted a picture where you can see them here.)

The sound of the door slamming shut because the springs were too strong and the wooden thread spool they'd affixed at the exact height a young child's hand ends up. (Still, though, the springs were too strong for any kid to open it alone.)

The way the white plastic rings that held the curtains my grandmother had sewn to cover the kitchen cupboards would snag on their rods two thirds of the way across.

The six colored metal cups that my dad, four aunts and uncle used when they were young, each of them having a different colored cup so they would know it was theirs. And when you poured milk in it, it'd end up almost too cold to hold, but the way the top of the cup was bent somehow fit your bottom lip so perfectly. My cousins and I would ask whichever adult was in the room to go through the stack of cups and remind us which cup belonged to whom.

The way the bathroom sink faucet ran about a half inch from the edge of the sink, making it impossible to sneak a drink of lake water while brushing your teeth. And the way they'd bring one of those yellow chairs in when you were little so you'd be high enough to see yourself in the mirror as you brushed.

The mystery toothbrush cup on the top shelf of the bathroom vanity. I always wished that either the Miss Piggy or the Kermit the Frog toothbrushes could be mine, but as the germs came from mystery people, I never dared steal them.

The way it was a privilege for married adults to finally attain the right to sleep in the "honeyroom", the only room aside from my grandparents' room with a double bed in it, even though that bed was so uncomfortable and that room was always the hottest in the summer.

The window in the "girls' room". It was mostly under the top bunk of one set of bunk beds, but your other hand would be on the other side of the bunk bed post, so it was so awkward to open it, especially since it was tight old wood too. You'd struggle like mad to get it open and then the thing would slide shut so easily. Frustrating.

The yellow walls in the girls' room and the poster of the two kids leaning on the window sill looking out that read, "No one would dare bomb this place and end this confusion."

The mystery bathrobes my grandmother would always try to convince me to wear. "This one isn't so bad," she'd say about the white one with the multi-colored polka dots. "I'm ok like this," I'd say with a terrified look in my eye.

The black linoleum in the girls' room with the tiny random squares of different colors that had no pattern to it whatsoever. And how it ended jaggedly under the right bunk.

The way the springs on the top bunk would shred your hands apart, but you couldn't help but try to lift yourself off the lower bunk with them anyway.

The string of dark brown nylon to turn the room's light on.

The livingroom light with the five off-white glass globe things that flowered at the top and had some sort of brown flower or something on the side of each one. It'd light up the living room with a soft yellowy orange glow that didn't allow for reading. For reading, there were various lamps haphazardly nailed to the wall. The lampshades were created with the same hideous green and white canvas fabric as the curtains.

My grandmother cooking on the stove that is now in my kitchen. She made everything in the kitchen seem so easy and systematic.

The yellow plastic colander that hung on electrical box above the stove as decoration. I remember every time any of the grandkids would help in making pasta, none of us could ever find it because we'd gotten so used to it being in plain sight.

The way my grandfather had perfect and pretty playing cards that we weren't allowed to touch and when the edges would get thick and fuzzy from overuse in playing Rummy 5000 with my grandmother, he'd get new ones and demote the fuzzy ones to general use. He always got them in plastic boxes of two. We started with the gold ones with the white designs and the white ones with gold designs, then moved up to pink and green flamingos (those were plasticky and chipped easily), then purpley flowers. It took forever for us to get those purpley flowers but by the time we got them, we'd grown to like the chipped flamingos.

The chinese checkers game. I used to get so mad at my aunt's family for losing the marbles and causing me to always have to be turquoise or red. Ew.

The bench by the door with the red foamy cushion on it, under which my grandfather kept his empties. I slept on that bench one time when there was nowhere else to sleep and I think that might have been the hardest I have ever slept in my life. I woke up with a bunch of books on me and it turned out a friend of mine had tried to wake me up by throwing books at me from across the room. Good times. :D

The sound of my grandfather's baseball games on the radio all afternoon while he took his "well-desarved" rest.

The way the house shook when he'd walk up the stairs.

The way the first board outside the door on the porch would always rot, no matter what the uncles did to try to fix it. And the way the back porch was always completely rotted but they didn't seem to care.

My grandmother used to throw the dishwater from her yellow tub off the porch out the back door. It's how my dobie got away one time. He jumped through the rotten horizontal wood pieces to the ground about six feet below and took off. I remember when I was old enough to finally do the dishwater myself, I really struggled. That shit's way heavier than my grandmother ever let on.

The way you weren't supposed to flush if you only took a pee (if it's yellow, let it mellow), but I don't think I ever adhered to that rule. My overly micromanaging grandfather thought I had real bowel issues.

The way the boys would struggle like crazy to get the water pipe out far enough in the spring and drop it into the lake without losing the filter that was precariously tied to the end of it.

The way my grandparents were adamant about us not drinking the water and my dad would come in from working on whatever, fill a tall glass to the top and drink it all in one go.

My entire family prided itself on being rational and scientific and yet, the only towels up there had horoscope designs on them.

Standing on the rock in the lake and trying not to slide off. We used to use a flutter board as a desk and pretend we were news anchors and we had to get our story out before being swept away. And trying to find the rock again every summer by braving the slimeys and mooshies, tapping forward bit by bit till we'd kick it and end up with a scraped toe.

The awesomeness that was the rarity when my grandmother would bring us lemonade to drink on the dock.

My grandmother wearing her black bathing suit with the skirt and raking up the slimeys from the parts of the beach we walked into to swim.

Standing, wrapped in a towel after swimming, on the big rock on the beach that somehow stayed warm from the day's sun long after it was gone behind the trees.

The sound of my grandfather opening the woodstove in the morning. He'd always drop to one knee to start the fire. The left one.

My grammy's turquoise morning coat that was ever-so-soft jersey.

The fisherman material that covered the cushions on my grandfather's rocking chair that was also the material for the curtains in the "honeyroom". His chair had the high arms and was shiny wood and hers had blue corduroy and low arms. She'd bought the blue one for him and he'd bought the shiny one for her and it turned out they each liked the other better.

My grandfather's yellow sweater with the black stripe across it that always made him seem like a duller, older version of Charlie Brown.

The turquoise paint in my grandparents' bedroom and the way the wall between their room and the girls' room had an inch missing at the top for some reason. They could hear every word we'd say in there and if we should ever turn the light on...

The old wooden bench down at the beach. One year, they got my grandmother a new one. It was a white plastic bench. They moved the wooden one up to the fire pit near the house so it wouldn't rot (the beach was very mooshy). She'd sit there with her white fishing hat on (with the purple trim) and giggle at our rock news casting.

The way my aunt used to swim from the dock to the flag pole. Breast stroke. With a rubber bathing cap on.

The way the salt was behind my grandmother's seat at the table. It had rice in it to keep the salt from getting too clumpy. Beside the salt, the pepper. Beside them, wooden candle holders sculpted to look like tree trunks. Then a two-by-four part of the frame of the handmade kitchen island and the shelf beside that was for the teetering pile of playing card boxes. The good ones were always on the bottom, of course.

The brown teapot that sat in the middle of the dining room table all day with a tea cozy on it.

The pink and white vertical striped wallpaper in the bathroom. Underneath that, there was grey sparkly wallpaper with green fish.

And then there was the caboose. I don't remember the story, but they had a caboose delivered and that's where the boys slept. There was a bunk bed, a blue sofa and in the upstairs part, a queen bed. My younger cousin slept up there with her dad once and in the morning, came down to tell me there were tons of daddy long legs up there. Scared the shit out of me. Between that and the shitty ladder leaning against the wall to get there, it was very difficult to convince me I needed to be up there...

Behind the door was a single shelf at elbow height where all the tools were piled up. There and in the wooden trunk on the other side of the hall.

The floor was brown. I don't know what it was, but it absorbed all shoe noises. It was long and narrow (i.e. like a train car should be). The bunk beds were at the back on the right. Across from them, two closets where they kept the water skis. Beside the closets, another bench with a leather seat cushion. I also slept on that bench. Not comfy. Across from the bench, the blue sofa and the black metal lamp with the turquoise lamp shade with weird bubbles that wouldn't pop on it. That lamp shocked you if you touched any part of it aside from the white slidey knob. We all mastered it. Beside the sofa, a stove that I never saw used. Across from the stove, a desk and a very uncomfortable brown wooly chair (it's one of the ones in that picture my cousin posted, the chair with the rivets). And beside the desk, the aforementioned toolbox with saws hung above it on the white fake wood wall.

The door and the outside were red. There was a ladder on the front and back to get to the roof, but the front one had a tree growing against it. A thick, huggable tree.

Eventually, when we were old enough, the mid-age grandkids all got to sleep in the caboose because we kept the little ones awake otherwise. I think my grandfather didn't like the merging of boys and girls under one roof, but there wasn't much choice.

We had tea parties (real ones), played in the woods, dug up funky colored sand from under the house, and eventually, played in the treehouse my grandfather built us. When I was tiny, there was also a swing on that same tree that was just a rope with a board attached to the bottom. The radius of that thing was huge and scary and eventually the branch that supported it died, so they used the same rope to pull it down and that was the end of that.

Anyway, I could go on forever. The point is, between seeing my cousins' pictures on facebook after they'd spent a week at a shack in the woods together last week and feeling that painting, for the first time since our family fell apart, I realized that all of that died. All the history, all the memories, all the family unity is gone for good. We can't get that back. The way we'd memorized the tree roots between the caboose and cottage so we could navigate them in the dark- pointless because in putting in the foundation, all those trees are gone. And in adding a garage and moving the driveway, the fire pit and treehouse tree are gone too. The tree stump with the circular root where we'd make mystery mud soup is gone too. Nothing is the same. Even the beach is overrun with weeds and grasses because my stepmother refuses to cut anything planty.

It was, as my dad puts it, a rat-infested shithole and now, it's a house. It's a full-out winterized house with well water and a garage. And in the pictures my cousins posted, theirs is a shack in the woods. When my dad was nearly done the renos, my aunt's family said the cottage had lost its soul and this weekend, I felt it too. I miss our shack in the woods. I miss the simplicity of it. The black feet. The empties hidden under the bench. The mouse droppings in the drawers. It was simple and easy.

To be honest, I don't feel welcome there anymore. It's my dad and his wife's place. When I do go, I don't hear the end of it about the fur. "We still find fur even now! So disgusting!" And then my dogs will go swim and wet the dock. End of the world.

I miss my family, you know? I miss how we rubbed each other the wrong way, but we still laughed and tried. I miss our variety of personalities. I miss the chaos. I miss my aunt trying so hard to mom me and me resenting her like crazy. I miss being able to take it all for granted.

me: We thought about getting married up here...
SIL A: In [my stepmother's] house? Are you crazy?
me: Shit. i forgot the [stepmother] factor. That's a dealbreaker factor. [looking at my guy] Nevermind that then.

Sigh.

It's gone and I miss it.

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