Monday, October 18, 2010

Exercises in Memory

For Kristen

I look just like my mother.

I found a picture of her once in her jewelry box where she’s standing next to her yellow car; it’s the 1960s. Her hair is the same shade as the car—“A mistake with the bleach,” she explained later.

In the picture she leans against the passenger side door in the driveway of her parent’s house in Racine, Wisconsin. She’s smiling hugely. I recognize her smile, her teeth. When I brush my teeth I see that smile. When I laugh and sing, my lips slide open, and my mother appears.

*  *  *

It was spring. I had a pink and white, checkered dress that I could pull over my head without thinking about shorts or pants, tops, colors, matching. All I needed was my dress and my underwear.

The sun was bright and made the stucco on the houses blinding. I walked through the kitchen, past my brother taking a sip out of the milk carton, and through the den where my dad sat watching football and drinking a beer. The garage was dark and cool, and I pressed the button with my pointer finger to open the door—brrrrrrrr, the frames of the door rose above my head. I pulled my bicycle out from behind my dad’s camera equipment, wheeling it out to the driveway and kicking down the stand so I could run back into the garage and close the door. I braced myself, got into a runner’s stance, and sprinted through the slowly disappearing light before the door could hit me in the head.

I got on my banana seat, pulled my dress up past my knees to get the fabric out of the way of the pedals, and juggled my notebook under my arm. I was headed to my friend Caley’s house. She lived down the street, on the road below the hill where my house sat, past two rows of speed bumps. We were planning our club, Summer Fun, where we’d get the parents of kids who were small than us to pay us for swimming lessons and game days. Caley’s mom printed us business cards.

I pumped the pedals and headed down the big hill, singing to myself, “I feel good, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.” I closed my eyes and rocked my shoulders back and forth to my beat. The bike started going so fast that the pedals got a mind of their own, and my front wheel began shivering.


Up and over and my handlebars came out of my grasp, my book went flying, and in a moment I lay on the ground, the hot blacktop against my cheek. My back tire pinned my legs to the ground as it continued to whirl, making a loud clicking sound. Two of my Indian neighbors saw me fall, and the last thing I remember is their bodies, running upside-down, to snatch me up.