Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Everything Changes

Yesterday I spent some time working through another episode from my childhood. This is the first one, I'm pretty sure. I am 4-years-old and staying with my great-grandmother while my parents are at work. It's a sunny spring day. My great-grandmother lived with my paternal grandparents. We called her Nur (nuh). My grandmother was Dee and my grandfather was Da. There was one other occupant in the house, Aunt Ruth. Ruth was Nur's deceased husband's aunt, who had raised him after his parents died. Ruth lived in the house because no one else would have her, and Nur has promised Gram (her husband) that she would care for her.

Ruth's life story would take up at least a week's worth of blogs. We'll get to that later. Suffice it to say, the family saying was, "She's too mean to die!" But I digress, this is my story.

Nur was hanging laundry on the line in the backyard. It was a load of sheets. She is hanging large white flat sheets with her back to me. I am sitting on the back stoop playing with my doll, Dahlia (daylia). Dahlia and I were inseparable. It is very warm and sunny on the porch. I carefully place Dahlia sitting on the step and go into the house. I am headed to the bathroom, when out of nowhere I am struck in the face by the back of Ruth's hand. The next thing I know, I am lying on the floor looking at the rocker on Ruth's chair. She is leaning over me and yelling. Her face is contorted and she is shaking her finger at me. I know she is talking to me, but at first I can't make out the words. She says something about that Lucile (Nur) woman. It's my fault she says. If hadn't . . . what? She grabs my arm and hauls me up. Don't tell anyone. They won't believe you. You're a liar. She shoves me toward the door leading to the rest of the house.

I wander to the bathroom. I want to see my face in the mirror, but I am too short. I am sure I look like a different person. I use the bathroom. Now I am stuck. I want out of the house, but to get out I'll have to walk by Ruth again. How can I keep from making her mad again when I don't know what I did the first time? I settle into the corner behind the bathroom door. If I stay, Nur will worry about me and come looking. Maybe she'll be mad too. I reach for the doorknob and turn it slowly. I peek out into the hallway. I don't see anyone. I can hear the TV from the den. Ruth is watching wrestling. She loves it. I slowly creep out of the bathroom and into the hallway. Tiptoe into the kitchen very carefully, listening, watching. I make my way to the den door and peer around. Ruth is still in her chair, focused on the TV. I edge around the door frame and keep as close to the far side of the room as possible. I never take my eyes off Ruth and she never looks at me. Finally I am passed her chair and the back door is in sight. I make a dash for it, flinging open the screen door. I am safe! I have made it to the stoop. Everything looks the same. Nur is still hanging out sheets. Dahlia is sitting on the step waiting for me. The sun is shining and a warm breeze is blowing, but nothing is the same. It is all different.

I pick up Dahlia and go sit in the shadowed corner between the stoop and the house. What did I do?

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