Everyone has a beginning. Mine started on November 5, 1969 (earlier if you count gestation, I like to think that I was conceived around the time of Woodstock but who knows. I somehow doubt my mother and father were there anyway, but it’s a dream I’ve always nurtured, for good or for bad.)
There is no baby book, telling me what my first words were, when my first tooth came in, or when I took my first step. There are only faint memories that I’ve kept and a few stories I was told, a handful of baby pictures, and my brother, who is almost 7 years my senior.
My mother died in an accident when I was not even two years old. I have no recollection of her, at all.
My father was called Nick, but his real name was Joseph. I have vague memories of him – a cowboy hat, a guitar, a harsh voice commanding “Get back in that room!”
My oldest brother, Ronnie, was really a stranger to me. I don’t remember him at all from the early days – he was my half brother and went to live with his father (Rhode Island? New Hampshire? Connecticut? I can’t remember…) after our mother died. My most vivid early memories are of my other brother Michael, and my grandfather, Morfar.
A tricycle, a big farm house with huge rooms and many doors…I’m sitting on the seat and Michael is standing on the back, using the trike like it’s a scooter, and we’re flying through the rooms. I am happy. I see sunlight shining on the linoleum that looks like fake pebbles…I hear Morfar yelling “Michael! Michael!” I can’t see Michael, but I know he’s there. We are laughing….
We’re walking down the road (called The Towpath) to a cottage belonging to the Ellingsens. We’re walking there, and I don’t know why, the sunlight on the pavement is hot; I remember someone giving me a slice of bread. It is soft, and I love the yeasty smell….
Morfar is making dinner, I guess. I remember asking for seashells, and I can hear Morfar saying “Here are your seashells.” I’ve always loved shell shaped pasta. I see the sunlight shining on the little green glass pitcher Morfar kept the thermometer in – it’s on a high shelf by the kitchen sink….
There’s a swinging wooden footbridge across the river – it’s the Lackawaxen River, but I can’t say that. For years, all I could manage was Ax-a-waxen. We are going across the bridge, Michael and me, to see “the hippies,” named Don and Donna. I think we’re supposed to tell our father to come home to supper. Don says “Can we come?” and I remember saying “NO!” and Don, or possibly Donna, says “Why not?” and I say “Because we don’t have enough chairs!” This is funny, everyone laughs….
I remember having a splinter in my foot – we went barefoot to see the hippies – that’s only appropriate, I guess. I know my father took it out, because years later I remember talking to Michael about it, and he said that “Dad” took it out with a needle. I don’t remember it – I wish I did. It would be the one loving thing, perhaps, that I could recall about my father, but alas, he is just a faceless man with a cowboy hat, a guitar, and a harsh voice….
Michael, I want you to push me…push me Michael…push me…the sunlight is dancing on the floor…push me…