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field trip, anyone? (part 1)

July 13, 2011

Every time you picture it, the frays around its edges nearly obscure the red front door, the neat flower beds, the porch steps.  You used to sit on those steps with Sherry, your war-torn Baby Alive with the jacked up hair and the underwear that always slipped down around her ankles.  You used to cradle her like she was the most beautiful babychild you ever saw and one time — I swear it — I heard you singing “Bless the Beasts and the Children” into her curlicued little plastic ear.  Other times we would braven up, get lively and put on our galoshes, and trudge through the back forest, snakes and raccoons be damned, and we would tramp past the clearing where the teenaged boys in the neighborhood built fires and threw beer cans.  We’d not stop, not even after speculating about whether ghosts or people visited that place.  When we saw the treeline split, felt warmth drip between leaves, we knew we’d neared The Creek.  At three, at five years old, we would slide down the sharp embankment, straddle the giant pipe that crossed it (a precarious and unworthy bridge) and shimmy calmly to the other side.  We didn’t concern ourselves with the idea of falling.  We just did it. 

A couple of years ago, I attended a monthly prompt writing group — an informal writer’s meetup.  The premise was simple:  one of us would randomly select a prompt out of a box (to which we all periodically contributed), we would all write for five or seven minutes, and then we would read what we had written aloud to the group.  The prompts ranged from mundane (“The other day I heard ____ on NPR”) to provocative (“This is the last time I’ll end up in jail”), and the discussion was invariably rich.  I loved writing with this diverse group, but its membership gradually dwindled and it fell apart.

Attempting to pack up our home office earlier this week, I happened upon my dingy little prompt writing notebook, from which the above was excerpted.  Based on the prompt, “Describe the first house you remember,” I wrote a few pages about my family’s home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where we lived when I was three-ish to five-ish years old (our decade-long stint in Durham is actually the third time I’ve lived in this state).  Likely because it is the first home I remember, I’ve filed volumes of memories from that time deep in my brain.  I wonder how much of what I “remember” results from photographs I’ve seen or stories I’ve heard, but the accuracy of my recollections pales in comparison to their affect.  For me, that home evokes safety and innocence.  When my family moved there, I was just a little older than my younger son is now.  Whatever future memories he may have of this home, real or imagined, I hope they are similarly warm.

You’ll notice that I used the phrase “attempting to pack” in the previous paragraph.  Briefly, I’d like to offer a moving tip for those of you considering a move with young children: Do not waste your time trying to pack in the presence of your children.  In my case, at least, an empty moving box is an invitation to climb in and play “Bear Cub in a Cave,” rendering both the box and the next thirty minutes of one’s life completely wasted.  A half-full moving box is an invitation to retrieve any and all items from aforementioned box and lay them out on the living room floor, accompanied by inquiries such as “Why are you packing this away?  What is this?  Where is this going?”  A fully packed and taped moving box is, well, a climbing structure.  I urge you to learn from my mistakes, and wait until your kids are asleep to try to pack.

Until we move at the end of this month, my children are in half-day camps a few days a week.  This schedule results in many waking hours during which packing is a less-than-productive activity.  So, we’ve made bubble solution and blown bubbles, we’ve played in the sprinklers, we’ve baked, we’ve colored, we’ve played Wii… we have busied our days with not-packing.

Over my morning coffee yesterday, I saw another long day yawning before me, two energetic boys, and a full tank of gas.  I thought about the prompt writing notebook I’d found and the real-or-imagined memories of my own first home.

“Winston-Salem is only an hour and a half away,” I said to myself.  “We’re taking a field trip.”

And we did.  I’ll tell you about it on Friday.

I hope you spend some time today in fond recollection, or playing in a cardboard box, or both.  Thanks so much for showing up.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    July 13, 2011 11:30 am

    Ooh, you MUST post pictures!

  2. Steve permalink
    July 13, 2011 8:42 pm

    I can’t believe you have such strong memories from that young. Mine start at about five, it seems. But it’s possible that my older sister beat everything out of me before then.

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  1. field trip, anyone? (part 2) « Chasing Maybes

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