10 March 2005


this peice is someting i worked on for a memoir class and have since refined... some of you have already read it but i though that i would share it with the general populace... if you hve criticism please share or just thoughs are cool too... if not please enjoy...

Routines can be comforting. The familiar motions, the smell of the dish soap we have used forever numbs the mind until it opens and drifts. Tonight my mind drifts to four weeks ago. The shock of response still courses through me.
My step-dad and sister were sitting at the small table in the apartment Gina and I share. I walk through the door and into the middle of a lecture on the evils of the Democratic Party. A knowing glance passes between my sister and I. “Here we go again,” I think to myself.
“You had better look long and hard at the candidates this year. Anyone who supports abortion is not someone any Catholic could vote for.” Getting up to leave Dan assumes the agreement of his daughters.
“Actually, I think I am going to vote for Kerry,” Did those words just come out of mouth? “His stand on social and economic issues support life after it is born, not just before.”
Dan turns around hand on the door, “You can’t just look at one issue.” The expression on his face makes me almost afraid, though I know he would never hurt me.
“I’m not, look at the war, the economy, the death penalty.” I see Gina’s expression from the corner of my eye. The shock and nervousness only register at a distance.
“Kerry supports gay marriage.”
“So do I.” Oh shit, I just said that out loud, but I can’t seem to stop. “I believe that homosexuals have as much right to love and marriage as you or I do.”
“The Scriptures say that homosexuality leads to Hell. By supporting their lifestyle you are helping them get there.”
“I don’t believe that either.”
“You had better pray about that.” The sound of the door closing still echoes in my mind. I don’t know where all that came from. It was like someone else had taken over my body, someone who didn’t know you were supposed to just go along, just agree or make noncommittal comments. What you think is not as important as keeping the peace. Helping Mom keep the peace has been my job ever since that day when I was five.
My eyes opened to the early morning light. That was a day from a time long before alarm clocks and wake-up calls, a time when I eagerly greeted each new day and all the wonders it would bring. Too often anymore I dread rather than anticipate the morning, and I look back now with envy on that innocence.
That day, like many others, I lay in bed feeling the weight of the quilt, its warmth against the morning coolness. That quilt still lies on my bed, its bright mismatched and patternless squares a link to that innocence. I couldn’t see the colors then, the light was still too faint, soft and grey with a tinge of blue from the curtains.
I can still hear Mary, my sister, snoring across the room. The baby was crying down the hall, maybe it is what woke me up. Or maybe it was Mom’s voice soothing her that brought me from my dreams. I lay there staring up at the mobiles for a little bit, brown bear, yellow chick, blue fish. Round and round.
The feet of my pajamas protected my toes from the cold floor as I padded to the kitchen. The light was on and the yellows and browns seemed even brighter after the soft light in my room.
“Good morning, sunshine.” Even on that day, everything about mom is soft, her smile, her brown hair framing her soft face, her warm hazel eyes as she spots me in the doorway, her small round body as she hugs me good-morning. I pad over and climb up into my chair.
“What do you want for breakfast, pumpkin?”
“Can I have the puffy cereal?”
“Sure, sweetie,” I am surprised at the easy agreement to a cereal that is only for special occasions. “Do you want to go on a trip?” Mom pours milk over the cereal.
“Where to?”
“Do you remember the Vreelands, in Nebraska.”
“”How come?” I start to kick my heals against the rung of my chair.
“Just for a visit.”
“Can we all go?” I spoon up the sweet cereal.
“Well, you and Mary and Gina and me,” Mom starts feeding the baby again.
“What about Daddy?”
“He is already on a trip.”
“Where to?”
“He had to go away. He is sick.”
“Is he going to go to Heaven?”
Mom smiles at the question, “It is not that kind of sickness,” serious again, “some times he hurts people, because he is sick, so he had to go away to make sure nobody gets hurt. Do you understand?” Flashes of yelling, locked doors, hiding under the bed run through my head.
“Now will you help mommy get everyone ready to go?”
I have always been Mommy’s big helper, probably even before that day. Through the fights and the screaming, holding Mary’s hand as we hid, making sure it was me Daddy paid attention to, not her. Helping with chores and learning to cook. I have been told over and over to let go of the past, but sometimes it won’t let go of me, the weight of a quilt, the early morning grayness, Mommy’s big helper, the smell of dish soap.
“I think you are getting too liberal,” Mom wipes the last plate dry and puts it in the cupboard.
“What do you mean?” My chest tightens uncomfortably as I pick up the pan from supper and start scrubbing as though every speck of stuck on casserole is my own personal enemy.
“You listen to too many people. You are like St. Peter, you know what I mean?”
“Not really,” Dan must have told her how their daughter believes in gay marriage, abortion and all those other things no good Catholic girl would ever believe.
“You listen to all these crazy ideas. Every time you hear something new you change your mind. You don’t think things through for yourself.”
“I don’t think that is true, Mom.”
“You change your mind every two weeks.”
“I do?” I continue washing that same pan, feeling trapped in the tiny kitchen, in the conversation, in the past that doesn’t quite fir anymore.
“You know what I mean.” She says it as if I am deliberately misunderstanding, as if everything I believe is for the sole purpose of hurting her.
“Mom, I haven’t changed my mind about much of anything in a very long time.” I see my life in fast forward – the little girl with big dreams, the hundreds of thing I was going to be when I grew up, the multiple major changes in college, the semester in Austria and how the enforced solitude of culture shock eliminated the static and left me with nothing but the core of who I am. The vacillation stopped on a snowy day in Vienna four years ago. How could she not see the woman I have become?
Her feet move slowly back across the faded green linoleum to stand next to me at the sink, “I still think that you are too liberal.”
I find myself silent once more, but the peace now has a bitter taste I never noticed before.


  1. You do a good job of moving from present to past and back - that can be difficult to manage sometimes. You also draw us into the sensory portion of the memories - it gives the reader something to share with you, and lets them feel more a part of the memory.

    Memoir can frequently be a painful form, and the best writers tackle it honestly, without flinching. You have done that and more by linking the memories to present-day pains.

    (I heckled Tessa about her infrequent posting, and now she has posted twice in a week. My work here is done...)

  2. hey tessa, i'm glad that you are posting more often - and also glad that you included a brian andreas, too! Like Mary Oliver, he can be so addictive!!

    I have just started the grad process myself - it's quite an ordeal - you'll be in my thoughts!
    Oh, the paperwork! Oh, the decisions!

    Thank you so much for sharing your journal with me.

    I'm just really glad that we met...

    ~ kim

    "Of course I hang on tight, she said. You can't believe the kind of stuff that happens when you let go."
    ~brian andreas