Have you ever heard a song from 1995 and been immediately taken back in time? Or have you been able to access a memory so vividly that you remember the smell in the air? Anything from No Doubt’s debut album or the smell of sage can do that for me.
I’ve stopped being surprised how vivid my memories can be. But they (more often than not) come with happiness and joy. I’ve had some really shitty days, but the good have always far outweighed the bad.
Lately, even the good days, are littered with stomach lurching or a sudden overflow of sadness.
So I’m going to talk about two specific memories from my childhood and how they, unfortunately, all relate back to the current state of things.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Which makes me a part of that very special, always knew that, micro-generation. I didn’t have cable TV as a kid. The struggle was real. So when I woke up at 6am on Saturday mornings I watched Feed The Children charity infomercials until cartoons started at 7. I remember watching children sitting on dirt floors with bugs flying all around them and dark circles under their eyes. They would stare at me as I sat in my Lazyboy with my clean pajamas, and my bowl of Total cereal in the comfort of my central air conditioning. I wasn’t even 10 years old and I already understood I was lucky and the world wasn’t fair.
That was one. Here is two. (It’s more complicated.)
I was an entrepreneur. Sometime in the 90’s we got a laser printer (it weighed 500lbs and shook the table when it was printing- but I could put things on a computer screen and they would magically appear over there on a piece of paper.) It was awesome! So I printed about 50 pieces of paper that all said the same thing “My name is Emily, I live in the neighborhood, I’m a certified babysitter and I’m also a pet and house sitter. Call me!”
Well, let me tell you, pet-sitting is easy and WAY lucrative! I sometimes watched several homes at once! I was a high roller!
We had these neighbors who were weird. And their kids waited at the same bus stop as me, but I often stayed inside the comfort of my Dad’s Jetta until the other normal neighbors arrived to wait. Because I didn’t want to stand with the creepy ones alone. These kids were dirtier than the rest of us. And they were always looking at me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, even though I still can’t articulate why. The feeling kind of reminded me of my time on those early Saturday’s with the Feed The Children kids. These kids in my cushy suburban neighborhood always looked a little hollow? hopeless? I’m not even sure that’s it…
Well, anyway, I was an entrepreneur. And one time this creepy family called and asked me to watch their pets while they were away. I was thrilled with a chance to peer behind their closed doors. To see what made them tick…
The first day I went to take care of the cats and rats and turtles and lizards (there may have also been ferrets) and on that hot summer day while standing in their home my legs started stinging and burning and itching. I looked down. The carpet, the wood, the tile was alive. I could see fleas jumping onto my legs, biting my flesh. They were in every room. The bugs were inescapable. Every day after that (at my moms advice) I wore long sleeves and long pants and knee-high soccer socks. Every day when I came out of the house my mom helped me quickly bag up the clothes. Knowing how clean and well-kept our house was I’m surprised my mom didn’t immediately set the clothes on fire… Every day I went home and took Benadryl and put baking soda and oatmeal on my legs.
It was awful.
Only recently did I really realize, people lived there. Parents forced their children to live that way. The oily hair, and the dirty faces and the sad eyes that I avoided at the bus stop for years lived like that unable to escape to a mom like mine who was (justifiably) aghast.
That family has a criminal record and a relationship with a criminal defense attorney born back in the 90s. There were a few horrible things that happened in high school and many of us assumed this creepy family and their criminal children had a hand in it. On some level, I intellectually understand that being raised in squalor, by negligent abusers masquerading as parents, would explain how three dirty downtrodden children would end up adults with criminal records, social and emotional problems… But I just don’t give a fuck. Sometimes understanding that the kids down the street had more in common with the children on my television early in the morning isn’t enough. I don’t exactly know where the line is when you cross from being worthy of pity to becoming the gum on the bottom of my shoe. They crossed it long ago. And there’s not a chance in hell of coming back…
I’m sorry my blog is turning into this, but I need to get these thoughts and memories out before they start to poison me. If there is one thing I know I can trust about the creative process, it’s once I put something in writing I can let it go and it won’t have any power over me anymore.