Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forgotten Things

She walked around the toy store, letting children’s voices and warm forced air dry her clothes from the rain outside. There were colors everywhere, a rainbow of possibilities. Purple, blue, green and sparkles. She picked up a small stuffed wolf from a high wooden shelf among dozens of other animals and held it in the crook of her arm, holding it there as she looked at picture books and soft felt puppets shaped like peacocks and octopus. The small wolf, a little bigger than a football, stayed in place, a soft comforting presence at her side.
She fell into it.  The warm stuffed cuddly possibility of its unrequited love. It felt good, though she didn’t know why. It was somewhere hiding in the folds of thick blankets, furry friends and clean blankets. It was years in the past.
The wolf was intended as gift, but part of her regretted wrapping it up in pink and purple and waiting for another day, a coming night among family and a round table and birthday chanting. She wanted to take it to bed, have it sit next to her as she read another novel that took her into Greece forty years before. She tried to remember playing with toys, and she searched her mind for a memory when her parents had taken her to a toy store. Nothing came.
Later that night she called her mother.
“Can you remember any toys I used to play with?  I can’t remember playing with any toys.  I only have a memory of playing with that red sand I brought back from the Nevada desert.”
“Oh sure, you played with lots of toys,” her voice got very soft, with an undertone of defensiveness. “You played dress up and went to Deta’s for tea and worked in the garden. I bought you Jenga. You played with Blackstar. You had a bike and a scooter and skates. How did this come up?”
“Don’t worry, this isn’t a critique on your parenting, I just couldn’t remember playing with toys. I was walking around a toy store and couldn’t remember ever being in one. I couldn’t remember any toys I used to have except for a few Barbies.” 
Later she searched the motives in her words. It had been a critique, however baseless. She had wandered around the toy store, a little jealous of all the children inside picking out toys. She wanted a stuffed bear.
“You had Legos.”
“I never had Legos.”
“Yes you did.  I remember picking them up.”
“Well, it must have been when I was really little. They must have been the big kind.”
“Yes, they were. And you had a big dollhouse, several of them actually. Your dad was so proud when he brought it home for you. He was sitting next to you drinking a coffee while you moved the furniture all around. He was so proud.” 
Her voice was light with sweet memories.
The thought of her father sitting there so happy with his little girl brought the prickling pain of tears to her eyes. They had all come so far from then, down the dark road of adulthood and clashing politics and the black space that their words could not fill. Three strangers constantly filled with misunderstanding, doubts, anger. Her dad now could not sit next to her comfortably, he couldn't just sit and feel his love for her, feel her love for him. 
“You also had that big cardboard doll house when we lived in Sharon. It was big enough that you could get inside.”
“Yeah,” she said, remembering the structure in the attic with one small window in their three story house.  Remembering her sister there, just a baby. “I do remember that.”
“Oh, you do?”  There was a moment of quiet between them. “I think we watched too much TV together though.”
“Yeah probably.”
“I think that being an adult is much more interesting and challenging though. I can’t remember my childhood either. I think the further you get away from it, the less you remember. I can’t remember a thing.”
“Not a thing.” 
She knew her mom had blocked out the painful past. The weekends she had once talked about when her mother would leave her at home with frozen dinners, alone and scared while her mother went to the theater. There where other memories that perhaps she had forgotten, forced away, hidden. 
They hung up and she lay in bed, still only remembering a select sliver of her own childhood. She grabbed a pillow and tucked it into her arm, pulling it tight.

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