Many thanks to my favoritest blogger in the blogosphere, Heather, for giving me a topic to sink my teeth into to get started blogging. She asked me to write about my favorite childhood memory so I went about trying to think of a truly good one while I cleaned the house this morning.
In order for someone else to understand why this is my favorite childhood memory, I have to give a bit of history. I'll try not to go into too much detail since my childhood is perfect fodder for future blogs but it won't make much sense without a little bit of background.
When I was 5 years old my parents divorced after a really tough 7 year marriage. My mother's parents never wanted her to marry my dad but she thought she was marrying for love and nothing her parents said could change her mind. They supported her decision but when things went sour quickly after they married, they wanted her out of the marriage. She stuck with it and had me first and then my brother a year and a half later. When I was 3 she had a stroke while driving and had an awful car accident which left her partially paralyzed on her right side and a hole in the roof of her mouth that never healed. Shortly after she recovered as much as she ever would from that accident, my parents split up. We lived with her for awhile in an apartment but were sent to stay with my mother's parents in Oregon. Through all of the turmoil we had been through in our short lives this home represented the first stable environment we had ever lived in. My grandmother was tough and didn't take any crap from you but we were good kids that didn't give it to them. My grandfather was the total opposite of my grandmother. He would sneak us off to the convenience store and buy us small bags of penny candy and Dunkin Donuts for a treat. He was always gentle and nurturing and loved us unconditionally. We loved it there because life was as it was supposed to be with the adults taking care of the kids without fighting and yelling. Shortly after we left for Oregon my dad died in a car accident. My mom joined us in Oregon after the funeral but she never got used to her overbearing mother telling her what to do and running everything when it came to my brother and I. When my grandfather (dad's dad) decided to leave California (where we lived prior to my dad dying) for Missouri, my mom gladly helped him move and decided to live there.
Looking back this probably wasn't the best move but it is what it is and we dealt with it. Of course now here we are thousands of miles from any family and in a totally different environment than anything we knew. The people meant well but there is a mentality that comes from living in a small town in the middle of the midwest that is unlike any other. I never fit in with any of the kids I went to school with and was viewed as an outsider even though I started school in third grade and graduated there. We made friends with an older neighbor couple who had 6 grown kids who came to visit often with their own large families. They accepted us into the mix and invited us for holidays and neighborhood parties but we knew we weren't one of them as much as they made us feel welcome.
We traveled back to Oregon to visit about once a year for Christmas and sometimes during summer break. My mother despised going out there because she didn't want her mother telling her what to do and what she was doing wrong in her life. But for my brother and I it was great. My grandmother had done up "our rooms" with wallpaper and curtains we liked and kept them like that for us. We felt like we belonged somewhere when we were there and loved the security. Until my mom's sister would show up with her 3 kids. Then we were under the magnifying glass that my aunt pulled out to go over us and nitpick all the things wrong with us. Since she hated my father so much I guess she was looking for any part of him in us. She and my mom were not close growing up and had an awful falling out when their grandmother died. They barely spoke to each other and when they did it made everyone uncomfortable. I didn't like my aunt but I tried so hard to please her. Nothing seemed to make her happy when it came to us so we felt like the black sheep yet again. After she would leave my grandfather would take us down to his workshop and let us ride bikes while he worked on some project. Some of my best memories with my grandfather are being in that workshop with the woodstove burning and my brother and I riding in circles on the big wheel or jumping on the pogo stick. Yet, this isn't my favorite childhood memory.
My favorite childhood memory involves my grandparents and my never satisfied aunt along with my mother. One year when I was about 9 or 10, we went to Oregon for Christmas. That year I badly wanted a handheld tape recorder because I just knew I was going to grow up and be a reporter or writer and what is a good reporter without a handheld tape recorder? My mom let me know that it wasn't happening from her since she was tapped and I was so disappointed. Until I got to Oregon and talked to my grandpa. I wanted that tape recorder so badly that I could taste it and I told him all about it. He thought it over and then took me to Radio Shack to pick it out. I was so thrilled and on top of the world until we got home. My grandmother scolded him for off-setting the delicate ratio of presents per child. There were 5 grandkids and she had gotten us equal amounts of presents and it wouldn't do to have me get one more than everyone else. I begged and said I wouldn't tell anyone and she said she would take one out of my pile to keep it even. To tell you the truth I don't think she did but it didn't matter. I had my treasured tape recorder with the miniature tapes and everything was good in my world.
Christmas night we were all laying around after opening presents and a huge family dinner when I pulled out my tape recorder. I guess I was feeling brave and I asked my aunt about my mom when she was little. Told her I wanted to catch some family stories on tape so I could write them down. For some reason she ran with it. She started telling stories in a very dramatic and funny way about how my mom had used her so many times to get out of trouble and all the pranks my mom pulled on her. She was a very animated storyteller and we all sat there enthralled with her stories and laughing so hard our stomachs ached the next morning. My mom stood off for awhile and didn't get involved but soon it proved too much for her and she started chiming in with "Well, she deserved it cause she always such a Pollyanna!". The cousins loved hearing about their mother when she wasn't such a stick in the mud and my brother and I loved hearing about our mother when she wasn't so burdened with what life had dealt her. Most of all my grandparents loved seeing their two daughters connect in a way that they hadn't been able to in years. For that one night we were finally a true family where everyone of us belonged. I will never forget that night as long as I live.