Three Spiral Notebooks
Rare is the day when words fail me, at least for more than a minute or two, but were it to happen, it would be because mine were drowned out by others. In this case the words would be those of my mother, Pauline, who passed on at the age of 92, going on three years ago. Out of the wild blue, her words arrived in the mail in the form of three spiral notebooks.
My lil sister JT had hinted that she had put something in the mail for me, but if I had given it much thought at all, I probably figured it was a photograph, or noteworthy article. Interestingly enough, JT is featured prominently in these spiral notebooks for the simple fact that being only 360 days younger than I, we spent a lot of time together.
What the notebooks do for me, among other things, is confirm that certain events that I think I remember, actually occurred. I have frequently maintained that for someone who indulges in as much cannabis as I do, I have a remarkably good memory, especially for events from long ago.
For example, I have vivid memories of Christmas, 1955, at which time I would have been three years, and three months old. For one thing the Christmas tree rotated to different spots of the front part of the house in those years, and 1955 found it in the front dining alcove, where the original floor furnace sat, the one that gave us all a scare when JT sat on it as a toddler, and got burned.
I remember the yellow dump truck that I received, and pushing it toward the tree in this alcove, when it was dark outside and the Christmas tree lights were glowing brightly, making the ornaments shimmer. With panes of glass on three sides of this alcove, the reflection of the lights was stunning.
Was I imagining it all these years? All I had to do was consult the first of the three spiral notebooks to find an entry from January 20th, 1956, “Mark’s Christmas was a happy one. He received a singing top; a mechanical racer and Jeep; a yellow dump-truck; a box with heavy cardboard animals, with wooden stands; two books; several scratch pads; a red flannel check sports shirt; green pajamas from Auntie Anne and Grandpa; and five yards of flannel and a white tee shirt from Uncle John and Aunt Lucille.”
Included in the same entry was the following, “He [Mark] is a great one for helping himself to anything in the cupboard. One day he took package of Koolaid (Brian’s) and proceeded to mix it with water. But since he left the sugar out, it did not taste good, so he quietly put it into the refrigerator and said nothing.
If it hadn’t been for the red on his face, I might still be wondering who did it.
Today he took a piece of gum out of Noel’s chest of drawers, and when asked him where he got it, he pointed to his own chest of drawers. I didn’t believe him but I couldn’t figure it out until Noel came home from school, and the trouble started…”
Though the Christmas memory stands out because of the visual nature of the setting, I can back the memory truck even further with the memory of my third birthday. What I remember is that Uncle Karl and Aunt Phil came over with my cousins, including Greg, who was the same age as I was.
I remember playing in our spacious back yard, something my cousins did not have, so there was a lot of running around, and I was still outside after it was dark, certainly a remarkable occurrence. Upon reflecting that I held onto this particular memory, I can’t help marveling that if I could remember something from the previous day, I would be remembering something from when I was only two years old.
Of course, I found the entry for October 13th, 1955, “Mark’s third birthday (September 4th) fell on a Sunday and we had a nice little party, cake and ice cream for the family. Uncle Karl, Aunt Phil and family came over and Grandpa and Auntie Anne. Mark received some lovely presents.”
As I immersed myself in these three spiral notebooks, it was not the events and the description of my own antics that interested me the most: It was the flow of Mama’s voice, as I read her words. Her voice in her writing was always alive and crackling with wit and humor. I know I got some of it because all through high school, the term papers were a breeze, as they continued to be though twelve years of higher education, with two years off for military service.
As surely as I am sitting here, she bestowed this ability to write on me. Being of glib tongue, I think of my own writing as merely the gift of gab, on paper, so the next time you see her, you can either thank her or register a complaint.
Just be prepared to wait in line.