This is another installment of a rough draft of a memoir chapter that covers fourth grade. This one’s a little dark.
As winter deepened, Mom’s bad moods got worse. I didn’t want to come home from school. Every time I walked inside the front door on days that Randy and I didn’t have Centerstream, there was something in the way the low winter sun fell through the big wide living-room window and onto the wall across the room, across from the front door. Something about the way the light fell on that off-white wall that I saw as soon as I opened the door made me feel sick to my stomach, like it reminded me of something bad I couldn’t quite remember. It made me feel haunted.
I felt so unsettled as I ate my afternoon snack each day, then went upstairs to play Barbies murder mysteries and write my little “books.” I was amassing a collection by then, a handful of stories that were about twenty pages each handwritten. I wasn’t really happy with any of them; I always felt they couldn’t quite capture the darkness of my soul. So I kept writing more.
I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up reading, doing math problems from my clock, listening to books on tape about outer space, argued with my Care Bears about all my indiscretions and scoured my room for the hollow sounds of a secret passage.
I asked Randy if I could sleep in his room. We planned it out. I would sneak into his room once my parents checked on me. We talked about it for weeks but it was hard because Mom always got up so much in the middle of the night, her staccato stalking to the bathroom and back keeping me frozen with fear in my bed.
But one weekend night, I didn’t hear her. I eased my bedroom door open, closed it behind me then released the knob slowly. I tiptoed past the bathroom, past the door to Mom and Dad’s room, and into Randy’s room. We didn’t stay up talking; that would get us caught. I curled up in a ball on the corner of the floor between his toy box and his wall that had a window facing west that let out onto a low roof. This was the window he insisted he’d looked out and once seen the dark side of the moon. It occurred to me, curled in the corner, that he had a better escape route. He could go onto the roof and then jump just one story to the ground. Neither of my windows had anything underneath them but gravel driveways and hard grassy ground, and a huge tree too far and too tall to climb down.
Randy’s door creaked open and Dad looked in. I could tell by the footsteps it was him but I couldn’t see him, the toy box in my way. I held my breath, tucked out of sight. He closed the door and padded back across the hall.
Most mornings, I couldn’t sleep. Randy always wanted to sleep in and June had the crazy energy of a three-year-old but I was an early riser out of terror. It felt safer to be up. I went downstairs early where Dad was always up–he liked to run in the mornings, even the snowy winter ones–and drinking coffee and watching The Weather Channel. There was a little baby table that Randy and I used to use but was now for June, with speckled red and blue patterns on top and little red kiddie chairs. I sat there at six in the mornings, even though my nine-year-old knees banged against the underside of the tabletop, and I talked to Dad about the weather. It was all wind chills and lake effect snow. It was all me making a show of being cheerful, befriending, begging silently, I’m just a kid at the kiddie table, just a girl, don’t hurt me. I’m not always bad.
Next Segment in this Piece: From Secret Passages to Aliens
So this is an excerpt from a chapter from a project I’m working on called Eclipses of Jupiter. It’s in its infancy still, but it’s about growing up with albinism and being legally blind in my crazy family, and all the school and social implications. It’ll also focus on blind camp and related programs when I get into teenage years. This chapter, which will be broken up into installments and posted over the next few weeks, is all about fourth grade, which was a bit of an epic school year.
- The “Truth” About Me – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 1
- Instrument Analysis – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 2
- Mystery Worlds – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 3
- Bathroom Jungle Gym – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 4
- Caught in the Act – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 5
- Light as a Feather – Truth, Lies and the Wicked Witch 6
- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- Music Takes Me Back – Camp Marcella 1993
- Writing as Time Travel