More snapshots in the brain, part 2

For an 18 month period when I was 3-4 years old, my family went through some difficult times. These were set within a larger, traumatic backdrop that I won’t take time to explain here. Some of my snapshots are mere glimpses of the mundane, while others are more dramatic and memorable. At this point, my family lived down the street from my grandparents, and this was before my father got a new job that required us to move to another state to begin a new life.

  • My father works as a mechanic and one day comes home with a bandage on his eye (I think, the right eye). A piece of metal shaving had gotten into it. Fortunately, the damage isn’t permanent, although he has to wear an eyepatch for a while.
  • My oldest brother is attacked and nearly strangled to death by the son of my grandparents’ next door neighbors (the ones with the pear tree) while delivering newspapers in the neighborhood. I don’t remember much except seeing him lying on the couch in our living room afterwards.
  • We get a new dog, a beagle (?) puppy, from somewhere and on the way home while I’m sitting with it in the far back of the station wagon, it throws up all over the place. The smell is awful. For potty training the puppy, my mother spreads newspaper over the kitchen floor.
  • We stand on our front porch looking toward a portion of the city where race riots are happening. Thick, black smoke billows up into the sky.
  • We are in the station wagon with my mother driving, and gunfire erupts from somewhere. We have inadvertently driven into a shootout between police and a gang. My mother screams, “Hit the floor!” And that is exactly what I do — get down as far as I can to the floor of the car and lay there.
  • I wake up one morning and decide to go over to a neighbor’s house across the street to see if their kid wants to play. I don’t realize (or seem to care) that all I’m wearing is my underwear.
  • We all get chickenpox and I hate having to sit in the bathtub filled with a mixture of water and baking soda to try to reduce the itching. I also don’t like Calamine lotion.
  • Most Sundays, we drive over to a neighboring city to gather for church in someone’s home. The tunnel underneath the river that separates the two cities is exciting and scary. One of those days, on our return, all lanes of traffic on the highway are stopped due to a bad accident. A car has flipped over onto its roof and is on fire. My father decides to jump out and help pull the driver out of the car, and the driver is badly burned. I jump out, too, and run after him, worried that the car will explode and my father will die. I run up the embankment next to the highway trying to get to my father, but one of my older brothers catches up with me and takes me back to our car before I can reach him.
  • We are convinced that there are vampire bats roosting in the attic of a nearby house in the neighborhood, and I look long and hard at that house while holding onto a neighbor’s dog, hoping to see one.
  • There are foldout stairs to the attic in our house and this is where older siblings sometimes play, so I decide to go up there, too, but I am worried about falling through the ceiling below.
  • I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but I am fussy about bread crusts and refuse to eat them. My mother tells me the secret to making a good sandwich is to spread the butter all the way to the edge of the bread.
  • We all get sick with flu and I feel terrible, too. I walk into the dining room on the way to the kitchen and suddenly projectile vomit. I’m amazed at how far it goes and with such force.
  • In the basement are bunk beds for my older brothers, and it’s also where we watch Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy movies.
  • The second floor bathroom has a large pine tree within reach of the window, and sometimes we like to climb out the window and down the tree.
  • For a time, we have a pet parakeet, but it dies suddenly one day.
  • My father parks a long, goose-necked trailer on the side street next to our house and we clamber all over it. My sister falls off and has a rock embedded in her forehead. I may have pushed her.
  • I go with my mother to pick up older siblings from school, and another time, I accompany my mother and grandma as they drive to an open air fruit and vegetable market (which I later learn is the famed Eastern Market — My grandma has a scarf tied ‘round her hair in a band.
  • We love to hear the sound of an ice cream truck — the old fashioned kind that looks like it’s from the ‘50s — and enjoy the occasional ice cream push pop and other frozen treats.
  • I get my first piggy bank, which is a talking one. It says something different for each type of coin I put into it. The only one I remember is for a dime: “Oooo, a shiny dime! That’s ten pennies, you know!”
  • My last memory of this time is watching a moving company empty everything out of our house and load it all into a big moving van. We are moving to a new place, where I will start school.

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