Saturday, September 8, 2012

tomato memory

I grew up in a very white suburb, and I would do anything to go to Toys 'R Us.   There is a picture of me from the early 80s that shows me wearing a blue and white checked dress, doing a pirouette for my dad.  I have no actual memory of this incident, only the picture and my older sister's account of it.  I'd never thought about it before.  My sister was clever and she saw an opportunity to put me in a dress to amuse herself for our mutual benefit.  She laughed; I got to go to the toy store.  This was when we lived on Crest road.  I was in pre-school.  My mom was not around that day.  Only my dad.  This happened in our kitchen.  We had a big bay window that looked out across our back yard.   

We had a garden back then.  It was behind the garage.  A pretty large plot as I remember it.  There were white path stones.  I remember pumpkins and a chain-link fence.  We were friendly with the family on the other side of that fence.  Their children were older than me.  They would hop the fence sometimes and come into our back yard through the garden.  One of them went on to have some association with Found Magazine, a magazine started by a bunch of Glen Ellyn boys.  Glen Ellyn was a lot different then.

One time my mom took me to Toys 'R Us.  I remember roaming around the aisles by myself.  I saw a woman with a red dot on her forehead.  I was old enough at this point to have received the cultural stereotypes that came with our suburb.  I assumed she was an Indian woman.  She was dressed in the traditional manner.  She had a child with her.  She was also eating a raw tomato as if it were an apple.  I watched her take a big bite.  I looked at the tomato.  I looked back at her bindi.  It shocked me.  What was she doing eating a tomato like that?  I could not understand her at all.  This is my first tomato memory.     

When we lived on Crest road, our driveway ran along the side of the house.  It was bordered on one side by a tall, wooden, red privacy fence.  We were friendly with the people on the other side of that fence as well.  We were friendly with a lot of neighbors back then.  My parents were probably no older than I am now.  They had three kids.  I was one of them.  Our dryer vent was behind some bushes opposite the privacy fence.  Bushes planted along the foundation of our house.  I remember smelling the dryer's hot air one summer day.  I had never smelled it before.  I didn't know what I was smelling, but it smelled crispy.  The bush was covered in white berries.  It exuded hot, dry air and the scent of clean laundry.  I entered another realm of consciousness for the first time that day, one of white berries and bizarre air.  I had been playing.  This is my oldest memory.  My first memory is of a bush.  

I did not know then that I would become a writer and plead with my audience for hotel money.  I didn't know much back then.  Some days I definitely still wake up and wonder how I got here.  I used to wonder a lot more.  I wake up and ask questions.  How did I come to this place?  Why is my life the way it is?  I used to think that I made a conscious choice to pursue this path, but now I understand that it was probably the illusion of choice.  This is simply what I do.  The only real choice I have, or so it feels this morning, is to do it well or do it so-so.  I hope I'm doing it well.  Why am I so serious this morning?


No comments: