“Ok now close your eyes, and picture the room.”
I am squeezing my eyes shut, trying to shut out the smell of the Drakkar Noir the chubby guy next to me has apparently showered in. He’s ruining my backwards drift into time.
I can’t smell anything but cheap cologne!
“Feel it. What do you see? What is in front of you? How does the floor feel under your feet? What color are the walls? The ceiling?”
Whoa whoa whoa lady. One memory at a time.
The lady’s teaching the memoir writing class had a soothing voice, but it made me want to go take a nap and pet kittens on a chenille sofa rather than dredge up the forgotten ghosts of my past and give them a voice.
She was walking among us as we stood like statues, tunneling down into our own cache of memories while trying to stay focused.
My mind raced. I don’t really remember much from my childhood. I guess that made it an overall happy one, but I have snippets of memories really, nothing concrete. Nothing I can say with certainty “I remember the time when…”
I’d taken this class because I was in a rut. There are a lot of stories brewing around in my mind, but they are about people who are still alive and, presumably, I care about, so I’ve written them and put them into the time capsule for future release, but I can’t seem to come up with any childhood memories.
“Who’s in the room with you?”
I almost snort. Drakkar Noir fills my nose.
And then there it is. The wisps of memory, streaming in like weak sunlight on a pale winter day.
“Hey Daddy! Can we go see the horsies today?” I am maybe 7, gliding through life as untouchable as only a child can. My Daddy is my whole world. He travels a lot, so when he comes home with his pockets hidden with little treasures it’s a double treat – Daddy AND goodies!
“Not today Leibling.” His pet name for me.
My sister waddles out. She’s a porky little baby still. Her clumsiness makes me feel protective. My father swoops her up easily with one arm and she kisses his peppery cheek.
Suddenly I am shy. I want nothing more than to spend time with my Poppy, just me and him. It’s nothing against my mother or sister – I am a daddy’s girl through and through. He winks at me from above and uses his free hand to open his jacket pocket away from my sister’s eyes. She’s babbling on endlessly, entertaining her captive audience, so I slip my hand inside his jacket pocket and carefully pull out a thing with pointy edges.
What is it? I ask him silently. He smiles, rubs my hair and goes back to answering my sister’s nonsensical questions as though she’s the only thing in the world that matters to him at that moment. I know better; I know he has love for all of us, but it still stings.
I take the weird looking thing into my room that I share with my sister. Suddenly she seems EVERYwhere and I want to escape. I scooch under my bed and am immediately glad that my mother is a typical German clean freak – the floor is free of dust and spiders.
I still cling to the thing in my hand. Under the bed it’s darker but if I scoot towards the wall the light sort of bounces down. I hold it up. I still don’t know what it is exactly. It’s got plastic edges and a sort of gooey ooze inside of it that moves around. I turn it upside down and watch the liquid slowly form drops then fall… slowly they fall…..
“Antje, come out honey. You feel asleep under the bed.” Daddy’s strong arm is fishing for me under the bed. I am tempted to push myself against the far wall where even he can’t reach me but I let him grab me and pull me out towards the fading evening light.
I rub my eyes.
“Silly child. You’re supposed to sleep IN the bed, not UNDER the bed.” He chuckles and ruffles my hair some more. I push my head against hand, aware that I’m acting like a dog waiting to be petted.
“Do you still have the toy I bought you?”
I nod, very seriously. He was going to tell me what it was. He nods. I nod. I hold it up so he can see I’m not lying. He smiles and nods some more. I can’t stand it so I practically shout, “What IS it Daddy?”
He is slightly taken aback. He picks up the little thing, holding it carefully as if made of precious glass (I know it’s only thick plastic but I like the way the cradles it) and holds it up to the window. “Hmmm.” He studies it some more.
“Dad, come ON. What IS it?” Now I’m getting impatient.
He studies it some more, turning it over and over, looking for.. for what? He places it gently on the nightstand next to my bed, alongside my alarm clock. He holds out his hand and calls so everyone in the house can hear him, “Who’s ready for dinner?” I hold his hand and walk back, throwing a glance over my shoulder. The little bauble catches the sun and throws daggers of colored light in the room.
At dinner, Mom is admiring the necklace Daddy has brought her from his trip to Turkey. It’s made of little white crystals that look like a glass waterfall on her graceful neck. She’s so pretty.
Mom looks at me, “And what did you father bring home for you?”
I look at Dad; a loss for words. He shrugs then smiles. “I just thought it was interesting, and reminded me of you.”
I nod solemnly, but my chest is swelled with pride. Interesting. Can a girl ask for a better compliment from the father she adores?