Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sing Me a Lullaby

Summer of 1952

My eyes, my nose, my ears and my skin do not lie to me. They yield the truth of any given moment. And it is to the moments that I turn more and more as the years pass.

Days are swallowed into weeks, and a month no longer seems a large measure of time. And, of course, I find this awareness to be more than unsettling. It is downright frightening at times.

My earliest memory takes place in the backyard of the LaCrosse Street house.

Mama has placed me on the lawn atop the old fringed bedspread.

My eyes widen with wonder as I watch an ant climb a blade of grass up one side and down the other until it disappears into the tiny forest of the lawn. The late June sun feels good, and I feel safe because Mama is nearby.

I forget the ants, and I look toward her. She is hanging laundry on the twirly gig clothes line. She wears madras plaid short shorts and pointed red flats. Her legs are long and tan.

Mom is only twenty-one . She has married young not because she was ready, but because she was pregnant with me. She and my dad won't make it, but she does not know this as she hangs her laundry while keeping an eye on me.

Flap. Flap. The sheets snap in the wind.

Off and on, Mama comes over to me and dances a bit of a jig as she sings "Chicky Boom Chicky Boom. Chicky Boom Chicky Boom."

Her words send a carnival of joy up and down my spine. I can only gurgle in response, for it will be some time before words will become a part of my world. And with those words I will start to analyze experience. I will use language to separate myself from myself. I will often trust my thoughts more than I trust my feelings.

The laundry basket is empty. Mama scoops me off to the bed with the high sides, her lips to my ear as she sings:

"Sleepy time in the pastureland
Dreaming. Dreaming.
Here we come with our pails in hand.
Mary, Molly and I."

I close my eyes and I see the girls with the pails of milk coming over the hill. They will be there for me when I allow myself to close my eyes and remember. They will calm me during the scary times when sleep eludes me.

They will be there to bring me back to a sunny day in which clean sheets and ants and Mama were all I needed.

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