Saturday, February 26, 2005

"People I Hardly Remember"

(cue inspiring drums and stuff)

I'm going to try this out. I'm not aiming for funny with these. Anything funny is very likely unintentional. I'm going to dredge my shaky memory for people that I can dimly recall and talk about the impact they've had on my life. Some of them I wish I could remember more fully, others I would just as soon forget. Doesn't that sound fun? Here we go:

(more drums)(and stuff)

When I was a wee tot (well, not THAT wee. I was 9.*) my mom took a job that required me to be put in a daycare situation. This would have been prior to my latchkey days, but not preferable. The woman in who's care I was placed was large as I recall. And friendly when another adult was around.

I remember one day, as I was waiting for my mother to come pick me up, this woman was sitting on the couch and crying. I asked her why she was so sad. She told me that "The King is dead."

I said, "what King?"

She: "You know, Elvis. Don't you know who Elvis is?"

Me: "I think so. You must have loved him to be crying like that. Did you want to marry him?"

She: "Oh yes. All women wanted to marry Elvis"

Me: "Does your husband know?"

She just laughed at that.

She had a son near my age, perhaps a couple of years older but he spent the days at school (it was the year-round school I mentioned before, and he was in a different group than I was). The rest of the children she watched were at least two years younger than me. She would keep us in the basement. The cement floored, dimly lit, musty basement. There were toys there, mostly stuff that had been cast off from her son, and not enough to keep the kids from fighting over. I remember the rules were we had to stay in the basement (she locked the door) all day and STAY QUIET! Lunch was brought down and at some point during the day she would check diapers and change as needed. I and the other one or two bathroom dependent children would have to knock on the door when we had to go. If she felt that we were abusing this system we would have to hold it all day. So that was how I spent my days, locked in a stinky basement with around six smelly, fighting, crying children about half my age or younger with a growing fear of knocking on the door. That was my vacation from my year-round school.

There was one girl who was 6 or 7 that came for awhile. She had a crush on me, but I was too old for her. In spite of our age difference, I really missed her when she stopped coming. There was another kid who had nasal problems. His nose would fill with snot that would harden into a plug if it wasn't suctioned out regularly. I recall that at one point he had to be taken to the doctor to have the snot drilled out. In spite of this he was a pretty happy child. And there was one more that was walloped in the head with a block hard enough to send him to the hospital. After that, no more toys for awhile.

My mom worked pretty late, as I recall, so I was nearly always the last to go home. It seemed to annoy the woman at times and I felt like she blamed me. There was one night where it was past dinnertime and she grudgingly fed me. I may be totally wrong, but I think her husband came home and was angry that I was still there.

Eventually I got on her good side and she would let me spend time out of the basement and eat lunch at the table with her and her son. I became friends with her son mostly out of necessity. He was pretty much a spoiled prick, but it beat the alternative. All day long she would be planted on the sofa watching soap operas and game shows. Any time she had to deal with one of the children it would piss her off. Yes, she was a saint.

One other person I remember from those days was a friend of the woman's son. He was a quiet kid. He always had his right arm down his pants. When I asked the son why I found out the kid was missing the lower half of his arm, a few inches down from his elbow and that it embarrassed him. Eventually he showed me. It was a birth defect, so it didn't just cut off. It sort of tapered down to a little nub and was pale and smelled a bit funny from being kept in his pants all the time. It was my first introduction to a physical abnormality. It bothered me that he felt embarrassed and I tried to convince him that he shouldn't hide it all the time, but no dice. Of all the kids from those days I wonder what happened with him the most.

I don't remember why I stopped having to spend the day there, but whatever it was I'm sure I was grateful. I graduated to walking myself home, letting myself into the house, making a snack and then reading or whatever until my mom got home. It was quite nice and I didn't get into too much trouble.

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*I know Heather, everything happened when I was 9. But this time I know it's true because Elvis died August 16, 1977 and I was born in '68. So finally, a memory that I KNOW I was 9 for.

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"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."