Hope

“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.” ~ Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead

Wednesday, April 10, was National Sibling Day.  It is mostly an internet holiday designed to honor the sibling relationship.

Wanting to celebrate the bond that I had with my late sister, and the one that I still have with my brother, I searched through old photographs of the three of us together to post on Instagram.  I found one from around the early eighties.  My family had moved to Omaha, Nebraska for about six months to be with my father, who was on a company project in the cornhusker state.

The picture was of the three of us standing in front of the fireplace.  Off to the corner, in front of the bar adjacent to the fireplace, sat my friend, Hope (name has been changed to protect her identity).  I was a bit surprised that the photographer, presumably my mother, would include Hope in the picture with us three siblings, but then I was hit with a particular memory about Hope that made whatever my mother’s reasons were make perfect sense.

Hope was always at my house.  She always insisted to come over every day after school, and she even wanted to have sleepovers at my house every weekend.  I had never had a sleepover before, and I had thought it was weird, but I finally acquiesced to her constant begging, and I finally asked my parents if I could have a sleepover and let Hope stay at our house.  I remember my mother was not too keen on the idea, but Hope was so insistent, and her parents agreed without so much as blinking an eye.

The plan was for Hope to come over Friday night and to stay until Sunday because her parents were going to take advantage of the fact that Hope would not be home for the weekend, and they had planned to go to Des Moines for the weekend.

Friday night came.  My mother had laid out blankets, and Hope was to sleep next to me on the floor.  My mother had made sure we were all settled before she turned off the lights and closed the door.  I was just about to fall asleep when Hope whispered, “Hey, are you still awake?”

“I’m just about to fall asleep.  You should sleep too before my parents get mad,” I said.

“I want you to do something first.  It helps me fall asleep,” she answered.

“What is it? I asked.

“Get underneath the blankets with me,” she said.  “And I want you to put your hands down my underwear.”

Innocently, I asked her why.  I told her it was gross to touch someone else’s private parts.  She then said that she wanted to put her hands down my underwear.  “It will make you feel good,” she smiled.  I refused and said no.  She shrugged when I said no, but she said that I still needed to make her feel good before she could sleep.

I was just about to touch her down there when my mom suddenly knocked on the door.  I jumped out from underneath her blanket and hid under my own.  My mom opened the door but did not turn on the lights.  I yelled out that we were fine, and that we were about to go to sleep.  I was afraid that she would come in and see that Hope was naked from the waist down.  But she closed the door and walked away, turning off the hallway light before she went into her own room and closed the door.

My mom had broken whatever spell had come over the room, and Hope didn’t ask me again to touch her.  The next morning, I became very ill with a fever, and my parents had called Hope’s parents to come pick her up.  Her parents were not happy that their weekend plans were cut short.  My friendship with Hope had faded after that.

Now, looking back almost forty-years later and recalling the events of that night, I can only surmise that Hope was being sexually abused by her father or even her mother.  I never told my mother what happened that night, until recently.  I asked her what made her come into the room that night, and she said she didn’t know, but that she just felt strangely that night.  I wish I had said something back then to my mom.  I feel sick knowing that I could have maybe saved her.  But I was just a kid myself, younger than my daughter is now.  I told my daughter this story and I emphasized that I hoped that she would always tell me everything, even if it was uncomfortable.

There Can Never Be Too Much Love

“Yes, I’m adopted. My folks were not blessed with me in the usual way. But they picked me, they chose me, from all the rest, which is lots more than most kids can say.” ~ Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

G has been depressed lately.  I often find her staring off into space, and when I ask her how things are going with her, she tells me that she feels sad “for no reason.”  I get worried that she might have inherited my dour disposition.

As a result, I have been thinking a lot about adopting.  I just have not decided if I will adopt another child, or perhaps rescue a dog.  I know, I know.  A child and a pet do not compare, but both will require love and attention.

Isn’t love the antidote to depression?  I feel for G, living her childhood with just me, and growing up without ever knowing what it is like to have siblings or even a pet to love and bond with her.  Because she is an only child and only has me to talk to all the time outside of school, I feel as though she is mature beyond her years, and has skipped much of the innocence and playfulness of childhood.

If we had another child with us, someone she could grow up with, bond with and love, she might not feel sad anymore.  I had little time to feel sad when I was growing up because I was too busy playing with, bonding with, and even fighting with my siblings.  I want the same for G.

I am also open to rescuing a dog.  She loves dogs as much as I do, and it is proven that pets do wonders for one’s health and emotional being.

Whether I decide to adopt another child or rescue a dog, both will add to my already stressful and hectic lifestyle.  But I am willing to endure whatever additional hardship it will bring to my life because I know that love is always worth it.

Tragedy and Miracles

“It strikes me profoundly that the world is more often than not a bad and cruel place.” ~ Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
I woke up Sunday morning to hear of the tragedy that happened in Orlando, Florida.  It is the worst mass shooting in American history.  My heart aches for all the victims and their families.  It is just so senseless and tragic.  Events like this make me want to give up on the human race.


On Saturday morning, G and I had brunch with my old neighbor, S, who moved to Ohio last summer.  She came back to NYC to visit with her two sons, and her one month old baby daughter.  I had not even realized that she was pregnant, let alone that she had given birth.  She had to undergo fertility treatments to conceive her boys, and so this baby was completely unexpected.  She said that she had thought that she was going through pre-menopause when her cycles suddenly stopped, but a visit to her doctor confirmed that she was instead pregnant.  Imagine that — her fertility doctors had sworn that she would never be able to conceive without medical intervention, and yet here she is now.  It just goes to show that the human body is a wonder and a mystery and that sometimes miracles do happen.

After brunch, G and I went to Bowne Park in Queens.  The park has a pond that is home to families of turtles.

And apparently it is also home to people who know how to have a good time, as evidenced by this sidewalk chalk advertisement.  G actually wanted to ring the number.  I had to explain to her that it was not real.  Oh, how I love the innocence of children.  Later on, I got to thinking about what her nine year old mind considers “a good time.”  Was she thinking that if we rang the number that little ponies and puppies would magically appear?  I should ask her later.

Vestiges

Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.” ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

I always thought that I had a good memory.  I can remember minute little details from my childhood, like the flowery bedspread my mother gave me when I was in elementary school, and the yellow flowery pillow sheet that I used to cover my favorite pillow, and on which I laid my head for several years and cried on for many nights during my teen years.  I remember portions of events from when I was young, and I even remember how I felt during those moments.

G is six now and she is often curious about how I was when I was her age.  She lost her front tooth recently, and she asked me how long it took for mine to grow back when I had lost my front tooth.  I was surprised when I realized that I did not remember.  I have a very vague recollection of losing my teeth, but yet I can remember the exact layout of my bedroom in our house on Greenport Avenue in California.

I remember the time my sister came back from school one day when she was in first grade and she told me that she felt lonely because no one in school liked her.  I told her that she could sleep with me that night and I sang to her until she fell asleep.

I remember the day my brother went off to the military, and how I cried when he left.

I remember when my mother turned thirty-eight and how I was afraid that she was getting old.

I remember the time I wasted being angry with my dad and how we did not speak for much too long for a reason that no one can even remember anymore.

I am trying to piece back the vestiges of my childhood and early adult years and while I may not remember losing my first tooth, or the first time I fell or got hurt, the memories and events that I hold close to my heart, I will remember those for the rest of my life.

Ice Cream Summers

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things about Summer was playing out in the sun all day long, and waiting for the sound of the Good Humor truck to drive around my neighborhood. The ice cream man always came at the perfect time, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., right after dinner, and when I was back outside playing with my friends. Most of the time, we were out on our bicycles, and we’d race around the neighborhood to follow the Good Humor truck. There was no ice cream in the world that tasted better than the ice cream from the Good Humor ice cream man.

Waiting for the sound of the Good Humor truck and running to get ice cream from the ice cream man became a Summer tradition for me and I’m sure for many American kids. What Summer day wasn’t complete until you had ice cream from the Good Humor man?

Even as an adult, I’d spend my Summer evenings waiting for the jingle of the ice cream truck bells. Some things you just can’t ever outgrow.

Last summer was Baby G’s first summer. She was only a few months old, however, and too young to know about the meaning of ice cream. I’d take her around in her stroller in the Summer evenings, and I’d whisper to her to listen for the bells of the ice cream truck. Here in New York, it’s the Mister Softee ice cream truck. I was excited for this Summer because I thought she’d be old enough to listen for Mister Softee.

But the Summer has come, and shortly, it will turn into Autumn. Because of the recession and the outrageous prices of gasoline, our neighborhood ice cream man, Mister Softee, has retired. I ran into him at the park one weekend, and I asked him where he had been. I had already surmised that the high prices of gasoline had driven him out of business, but I was still crestfallen when he confirmed my thoughts.

“I just cannot afford it no more!” he explained.

He had been the neighborhood ice cream man for almost forty years.

I am old enough to have experienced the days when milk and eggs used to be delivered to your doorstep, although it was already coming to the end of its days when I was a kid. I still hear some elderly people reminisce about those days, and I wonder now, if I will be one of those people that can’t ever get over the end of the Good Humor and Mister Softee days.

Mr Softee
(photo courtesy of MSN Images)

“Without ice cream, life and fame are meaningless.” ~ Unknown