I’ve heard the story many times.
I’m dawdling as I dress for school in front of the furnace.
My mom’s trying to speed things up. If I miss the bus, she threatens, I’ll spend the day in bed–at least until the bus would normally return late that afternoon.
I don’t care.
I miss the bus.
And so I’m sent to bed with books, and there I’ll stay. I’m in the front bedroom of the little house, the one where the window looks out on the dirt driveway and US-27 beyond.
This isn’t my room. I must be in my parents’ bed.
Mom lets me up to eat with my dad at our gray formica table when he comes home for lunch. We may be having Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Maybe peanut butter and jelly. He’s tending bar down the road today. (Is there no construction work in this weather? And why is he tending bar in the morning?)
When Dad goes back to work, Mom sends me back to bed.
It’s just me and Winnie the Pooh (who along with Eeyore frightens me) when the bugs and amoebas crawl and sprawl on the wall. When I close my eyes even now, I can see them again and transport myself back into that disjointed dream-like sensation. Hallucinations. I remember.
When I start screaming, “Daddy, don’t hit me! Daddy, don’t hit me!” my mom freaks out.
Somehow she gets my dad home. (Did we have a phone then? A party line? Did she run for him herself? I should have gotten these details straight from her while I could.)
So, the story goes, they drive me in the old Ford 15 miles to the doctor where they’re surprised to find out how high my fever still is even after being out in northern Michigan frigid winter air.
The measles virus has arrived.
So many of my early memories are like amoebas floating in air. I cup my hands to cradle them, but they slip through my fingers and fall apart like flobs of Flubber. They quiver and shiver and bounce and stick to each other, and I can’t quite gather all the pieces into one coherent whole.
Are the stories I’m told as real as the stories I remember?
I strain to remember–even as my brain strains the memories.
Sometimes my whole childhood seems to be a dream.
Inspired by “The Midnight Owl”
Claire Burge asks, “What childhood experience was especially surreal in its unfolding?
In the stillness,