The room had a womb-like darkness that I have grown to associate with places people call home. The front window was covered by a blanket, which acted as makeshift draperies. In the dim lighting, I couldn’t make out it’s color or pattern well enough to recall it now. Behind me was furniture I alternately remember as a bed or a couch. I infer that it was a hide-a-bed. From the kitchenette along what I think was the west side of the room, the little light not coming from the television filtered in. The other doorway led to places of which I have no memory.
I was sitting on the floor, playing with a farm animal set while watching Mighty Mouse on the small black and white TV set which was sitting at an angle on top a chest of drawers, which seemed impossibly high to me. Mother entered the room from… alternately, the kitchenette, or the unknown doorway and said something incomprehansible to me.
This is my first memory.
I was looking through the screen door, into that dark room I knew of as home as I contemplated my plastic bubble toy, which was shaped like a tobacco pipe. Mother had said “Blow, don’t suck” but I had seen Father and his pipe. I knew how it worked. Clearly, Mother did not understand. A pipe works by sucking on it. And so I sucked on it, and immediately began a coughing fit that required motherly attention. She said to me “I told you not to suck on it.” I still felt that she didn’t know what she was talking about. This is my first memory of her thin, strong hand on my back, the sensation I most associate with Mother.
In the palm tree lined split lane driveway in front of home, I was riding my red metal tricycle. The pedals were white, and made of plastic. Mother cheered me on from the narrow concrete porch. The apartment was covered in a tan stucco-like materiel. Father wore a shirt with broad horizontal stripes, and stood behind me and to my right. He encouraged me, but also said to be careful, and to not get my toe stuck in the pedal. I rode off, down the driveway as quickly as I could, but afore long, my toe found it’s way into that plastic pedal. I remember crying, and feeling that perhaps I had forever lost use of my foot. Father was quick to untangle me from the tricycle, and not far behind was Mother with ointment and bandage. She drew air between her teeth.
These three are the memories of my first home. We moved sometime after my second birthday, but before my third.
There was a man who lived in the studio below my great grandmother’s home. The tile floor was covered with packing boxes. He pushed his glasses up his nose with his index finger. I remember this man in this room… I never spoke to him, yet this room will become a recurring location in my tale. I remember it then, unchanged decades later… yellowish, off-white, square tiles, cracked in places, worn down by years, and filled in with dust of those selfsame years. There are tales for days to come, but there, that moment… I will never forget the first time I stepped into the tile room… so well lit that every shadow, every box seemed misplaced, even in the dark of a new moon.
Her house smelled like what I later came to know as “old people smell.” but I never thought of my great grandmother as being old. She was just… matronly. The carpet in her house was green like split pea soup. There was a woman laying in bed, in the room nearest the front door. Mother told me that GG took care of the woman, and that she was a widow. Her home was mostly one large room, but it was relatively well lit, in my experience. There was a dirt road that seemed to end right on her doorstep, bringing a garden of geraniums with it. I was sitting on the floor near her old Franklin stove. My great grandmother offered me a coffee, and I felt like an adult… sipping an adult beverage, sitting with the only human who never once talked down to me. She walked with me to the block stairs leading from her porch, around to the basement floor, where Mother met me, took my hand, and with a few pleasantries, walked me down to our home.