I remember popcorn on Fridays during prime time television, after all the fasting and fish sticks. Then on the hottest summer nights, us crowding into the one cooled bedroom, naked legs squirming on top of sleeping bags.
I remember our deep and complex backyard, the rabbits I kept there, and once finding them half eaten by neighborhood dogs. I remember sitting perched in trees for hours. I once found a cave in the azaleas and felt a zip of electricity at being truly alone. On my most bored days I climbed the pole-like evergreen, then jumped on an inhale and scrambled to the roof of the garage.
Summer evenings I sat on our porch with the neighbors, my mother’s constant cigarette, and chatter I could not quite embrace. I escaped to the churchyard across the street – where I ate green apples right off the tree, and learned why and how the insides of them turn brown. I watched, from my back in the cool church grass at dusk, as the bats zippered around in the sky.
Wait. Let me start again. I was born in March – instead of May as instructed. Born second of four, second just eighteen months after the first. I was incubated, released, infected, re-hospitalized – all part of a cycle, repeated for my first several years. There were oxygen tents and masks, IV poles, hospital pen pals, giant coloring books brought by well-wishing aunts and uncles. After some burning in period, I achieved a plateau and was released from patienthood, like to the wild, running full open with the hair of medusa and often bare-chested from the abandonment of dresses.
I came into every room angry, facing resistance. My father oscillated between adoration and iron. My mother succumbed to full overwhelm; instead of brushing my hair she cut it all off. Just as soon as I was free from hospitals, she bent towards them with focus. How it went for her – surgeries, committals, interventions, more surgeries.
Half-raised by my father, half-raised by parochial school, I found a rhythm in a double life. Good at school, bad at home. I couldn’t stop pointing out the obvious in a household running on crazy. Four kids born in five years, we were the reason for every wrong thing. (Who wouldn’t drink?) At home I used my most raw voice and my bare hands. At school, I was the girl no one knew.
My father covered over it all with the gloss of a salesman. Annie Bird, he said, don’t ever talk to anyone about your family.
Born and raised in Richmond, I've made my way as a professional writer for over 20 years, and have been building a body of personal creative work on the side. Right now I am most interested in reflecting the natural and spiritual aspects of my recollections of the past, merging wilderness, memory and the unknowable.
Anne takes Valley's classes.