this month's collab for Dear X: do you ever think about...
Would We Have Been Friends?
you and i talked today, and i started to giggle at one of your comments. it made me realize that you and are more and more alike every day. and it made me wonder why i've never asked you about Aunt Sally.
do you ever think about Sarah? i think about her from time to time. but i don't have many memories of her. two, maybe. here's one of them: she had come to visit once, and was unpacking in the living room (the shades were down for some reason), because that's where the pull out couch was, the one with the deep turquoise-y paisley sort of pattern that was the good couch for a while until it got downgraded to the rumpus room down cellar after we moved. i can see her bending over her suitcase in the shadows.
was that couch ever in the den? i remember the brown plaid-y one in our first den, that we (bro and me) destroyed by running down the (very short) hall from the kitchen and belly flopping over the arm onto the cushions. you had to cut that couch up to get it out, i remember, because you'd framed in the doorway after the furniture was in. or was it just too beat up? i don't know anymore.
huh. one fleeting image turns into a soliloquy on furniture. how does that work? interesting how physical memories can overshadow other things.
the only other memory i have with Sally is making Shrinky Dinks. it might even be from the same visit (most likely, it is). i remember her being next to me at the round kitchen table as we colored in the sheets of images. i was so happy to be using markers, and was very careful about not going outside the lines - Sally told me not to do that - oh, my god - i hadn't even remembered that before! she told me not to color outside the lines, because the color would stay.
and i remember taking the little plastic disks out of the oven. of course, Sally took them out, and i was just watching. (they're long gone, altho i think i may have kept them in my painted Q Tip box with some other treasures, or at least what rated as treasures for a 4 year old.) but i don't remember what she looked like, that sunny morning in the kitchen. i just have a sense of her presence, sitting to my left.
then again, i'm not even sure it was sunny that day. it was certainly sunny when we got the call. or, when mom took the call. i think she answered the phone, in her bathrobe. and maybe then she handed the phone to you, dad. or did you take it from her? maybe you answered it, and then let her talk to – who was on the other end? the police? gram and gramp? who told you that they had found the body? what did you think, dad, when you got that call?
the thing i do remember about that morning is mom in her white quilted robe, sitting on one of the brown vinyl padded kitchen chairs, the ones with the wire backs and the wooden rests, holding the green phone, the cord stretching back to the wall. i tried to give her a glass of water. somehow, even at that age, i had learned this is what you do for people who are upset. it's supposed to calm them. it didn't seem to stop the tears, tho, did it? and where were you? you hover indeterminately on the edges of my memory vision. what did you do? was i in the way, did you think? or were you too busy crying too?
i've never asked you about that day. it's been, by unspoken agreement, verboten. too worried about upsetting mom, i think. it just never made (makes) sense to ask mom how it felt to lose her sister. but hiding the hurt didn't make it go away. i woke up nights, years later, to hear mom sobbing in the bathroom. did you feel as helpless as i did, as lost as her? did you try to comfort her? i'm sure you must have. but with a chasm of hurt that big, how could you begin to fill it back up, make it better?
more than that day, tho, or what came after, i am greedy for memories of her, so greedy that i manufacture them. i *think* she might have given me an Easy Bake Oven. but i don't really know if i ever had one, or who might have given it to me. i just hope that it was Sally. i certainly still have the doll, Ugly, that she made for me for Christmas when i was three. it truly is ugly, one of the homeliest things you've ever seen. and i wouldn't part with it for the world, despite its garish green apron dress and its huge head flopping around on a tiny thread of a neck. that doll scared me for many years with its big glittery eyes staring at me from across the room. now, i have it tucked safely away. i don't remember that Christmas without help. but i look thru my baby book every so often, to confirm that manufactured memory. a white Christmas, just barely three, and a doll from Sally.
did Sally make the red stuffed rhino, too? i still have Rhino, draped across the toy chest in my bedroom. (yes, dad, at 34, i still keep that toy chest. be quiet.) i want to believe that she made that, too. it's just misshapen enough for me to think it might have been one of her projects. maybe she sat in her dorm, or her apartment, and tried her best to make this stuffed toy for me, hoping that i would like it, that i would love it, that i would love her. it's all sad and flat now, and i mean to restuff it one of these days.
i can't even picture her, dad. all my images come from photos. i can see her sitting on the swingset with me. but i can only see it from the outside, standing on the porch, where you must have been when you took the picture. do you remember that day? do you remember building that swingset for me?
oh, i am thirsty for any memories of Sally. did you see much of her? do you think about those days? do you remember what she looked like, what she wore, what perfume she used? did the two of you joke around? did you see her much, or was she off at college most of the time? was she even as tall as you? i don't know the simplest things about Sally.
did you sit on the porch, the two of you, or with mom, sharing beers and listening to the ball game? did she even like baseball? what did her laugh sound like? did you ever spend holidays with her? what did she wear to my christening? was she happy to be my godmother?
i would have liked to have gotten to know Sally, dad. do you think we would have been friends? or would she have been the renegade aunt, always getting me in trouble for going on adventures? what do you think she would think of what i've done with my life? if she had stayed in California, would you have let me get on a plane to visit her? did she like jazz? did she smoke? could you picture the two of us now, hanging out and talking about everything under the sun? or do you think she would have followed her own stars, sending postcards from exotic places?
it's pointless to think about how my life would have been different... but i can't help wondering.
sit down with me, dad, and tell me what you remember about Sally. please?
love and tears,