Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Portrait of a Lady of Sorts

Memories are often filed away with more than just flash images and mental clips of yesterdays.  Smells and sounds, like dusty stacks of Atari games and vehicles crunching up gravel driveways, or emotions as those involved with preparing for the first day of school, tend to wrap themselves up with many images associated with them.  For myself, the strongest memories I have are wrapped in excitement with the adventures behind constant change as my family moved from city to city, state to state, country to country.

As often is the American way, my parents divorced when I was young, but I was lucky in that I had at least one parent on either side of the divide who was active military.  As a result, I had the privilege of being introduced to many cultures, traditions and lifestyles I otherwise would not have became familiar with.

And though I sometimes envy those who have been allowed to remain comfortably stagnant in life for having the opportunity to make childhood friends and maintain those friendships throughout the years, I also sometimes pity them for having never been given the chance to try something new, to step out of their comfort zone and see life as it exists beyond the woods or across the pond.  And to them, I might suggest a new hobby.  Surfing, for example.  Er, couch surfing,,,  I will do this one day.  And I will likely be found abandoned in a ditch for it, loosely wrapped in tarp and twine and missing several internal organs, but I can't help but hear in my head the words of Miss Frizzle, "Take chances! Make mistakes!..."

And now I share with you my list in pictures of places I've lived. 

It all started here.  Meridian, MS.  Things I remember: A cardboard box and a fuzzy, stuffed beach ball.  And the sensation of my head wobbling heavily upon my neck.  There is also that memory of my mother playing 'Hide-and-Seek' with me, pretending to have left for the store but really laughing at me from around the corner where I stood crying over her abandonment.  So I suppose it was more along the lines of 'Hide-and-Torture-the-Baby', but at least she was having fun...
                             Dear Mother, I will never forget, and I will never forgive *crosses her arms dramatically*

And then there was Knoxville, TN.  It has been my home off and on throughout my life, and the one place I know I can always run to when I need to catch a breather from what ails me.  The things I remember most are too many to list, but there's the fog that hugs the hill tops in the morning, the golden globe of the Sunsphere Tower that winks at you as you drive by, shopping for bread at the bread store and then traveling across town to buy fresh meats from the butcher with my pappaw, smelling the freshly bathed moss upon the stones that covered the drive's hilldside as it dried from the dew in the early morning hours, the shuffling of house slippers as family moved across the wooden floors throughout the house, and the taste of apple butter accompanying anything I could slather it on, to name of a few.

Lemon Grove, Ca followed.  This place was magic.  Trolly cars, giant lemon statues, garden swings and fish ponds, thick shag carpeting and beds built into walls with hidden doorways, saluting the American flag with Grampy as we raised it above the front yard's water well, banana seat bicycles and giant sheep dogs with giant dog houses, and orange marmalade--the marmalade of the gods.

Barbers Point, HI, where we were never out of sight of the shoreline.  I learned to swim here, and Grover taught me basic math..  Also, Dad bought me my first computer and taught me how to operate it using only the F keys like a boss.  I was the hula hoop queen.  Don't believe me?  Just ask my PE teacher...  And I had two goldfish: Pamela and Fred.  They weren't as fancy as Dad's exotic collection in the ten foot salt water tank downstairs, but they were mine and I loved them.  I destroyed a multi-thousand dollar, white suede couch with a single cup of grape Kool-Aid, and spent the weekends with my dad at an old airfield flying RC planes until sundown.  I also met my all-time-favorite food here--lumpia.  (FYI <--that is one lucky one year old)

Yokosuka, Kanagawa in Japan.  Where hotdogs are considered exotic and locals would gladly trade boring cheesy crackers at lunch time for gummy candies of the foreign gods.  The beaches were black and the skies were often gray, but the people were beautiful.  Classes were taught with both an English and Japanese speaking teacher, who would take turns explaining the day's curriculum. And we were one of the only families to live in a house, with the neighborhood being primarily built with tall apartment buildings and flats.  I took a cab to school every morning, which cost a quarter, and would store it with the rest of my lunch money in my yellow, plastic change holder, which I remember smelled like syrup and copper and not like plastic.  My best friend was the daughter of an abusive alcoholic, and I always had to abandon what we were doing and return home once he started popping caps off beer bottles for adult reasons I did not yet understand, despite the pleas from my friend to stay.  This was also the place I first experienced a train ride, when our school bus broke down on the way to the zoo.  The tracks stretched for miles between the shoreline and the highway, and it would be the moment most remembered from that field trip.  Well, that and being attacked and bitten by a bunny at the petting zoo.  But mostly the train ride.

Whidbey Island, WA.  I always said I would one day move back. I spent my time there in the Girl Scouts learning how to build fires and dig holes in the woods to fill with bodily wastes during survival trips.  It was here I learned how high trees can grow and how wide their trunks and be.  And how deep their roots reach.  I fell in love with books here, inhaling Number the Stars, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and innumerable volumes of The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew.  I also died here.  Three times.  But I learned my lesson to not play in open windows again.  I was also introduced to the Northern Lights on Whidbey, which I plan to see again, and earthquake warnings.  And instead of learning about sex ed, we were taught about the three R's of recycling.  Rinse, Reuse, Recycle.

Dallas, TX.  Bluebonnets, pecans, triple digit summers with triple digit humidity readings, the state fair with fried...everything.  Steak.  So much steak.  And the Cowboys.  Not to be confused with cowboys, who weren't usually found within city limits. 

Mesa, AZ.  Where lawns are built with lava rocks, where the temperature remains the same in the shade as that in the sun.  For a city built in the middle of the desert, it had a great selection of sushi bars, likely in part to Phoenix being such a college town.  Everything was so symmetrical there, as though cities were built in the shapes of boxes and streets could only run north, east, south, or west.  Everything was cramped, as though the city was afraid to grow too far into the sands, and people would complain about having to travel five miles due to traffic. I was introduced to a lot of garage music here, which only a few made it to the big stage, but it was a carefree kind of time filled with music and movies and weekend road trips to the mountains for photography lessons with Dad, followed with late hours of film developing in our makeshift studio.

And now here we are in Columbus, GA, where history is almost under-appreciated.  Where I'm surprised pigs are not placed on the endangered species list.  Where adventures are just beginning and memories are currently being made.

Overall, I've lived in twenty-five different homes and attended class at thirteen different schools, not including colleges, and it's been nothing short of exciting.  I collect friends just as easily as I collect memories and accept change just as easily as I accept a new day.  Such is life.  So for those of you who continue to be a part of it, thank you for loving me.  Even as I move so far away from you all. 


1 comment:

Mary Malcolm said...

I love your gypsy soul! We share that. I lived in seven states and Mexico and have very specific, very vivid memories from each. I only attended seven schools, not counting colleges, but unlike you I really do not like change. I'll move, I'll start over, meet new people, but move my chair and it'll freak me out for weeks. Why are the plates in a different cabinet? We've got a new boss, why didn't anyone tell me? Seriously bad bad issues with change. ;) Which is bad. I work at a bank. I deal with change everyday.

P.S. I saw a shirt today that made me think of you. It was a very sweet shirt with very sweet images of a unicorn sitting down with a fork and dine on a leprechaun. I giggled very hard.