Friday, February 18, 2005

kidney-shaped pool

Today was one of those days where I couldn't get the taste of last night's dream out of my mouth. I dreamt I was at my Aunt Mickee's house, the house where we always celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. Her house was ultra-Southern California: flat, narrow ranch with a faintly Swiss chalet-looking roof, set at the top of a fairly steep, curved driveway. (Not steep and curved like the driveway of an estate; only steep and curved enough to be too dangerous to roll down on a skateboard.) It's always a little overcast there, even though a kidney shaped swimming pool dominates the backyard. The rest of the backyard is dull grey cement, about the color of the sky. I remember how it felt to lay on it for warmth when I got out of the pool, wiggling my legs into the warmth of the puddles I was making as I dried in the sun, the way its rough surface left little knotty pulls on my bathing suit.

The house always felt a little precarious. Dark and clean and quiet, it was a place to run into when you had to leave the pool to go to the bathroom, peeking into absent cousins' rooms on your way back outside, a place where you ate your food at folding tables on folding chairs in the middle of a living room you weren't normally allowed in, a place where you stood quietly next to your mom while she said her goodbyes. Aunt Mickee's house was not a place where you made jokes or told stories around grown-ups. Mostly it was a place you looked at from outside, while you played in the back of your grandfather's brown pick up truck, or rolled down the grassy hill leading to the sidewalk.

As an adult it continues to be a place I look at from the outside, only now I look at it from the shadows of the narrow strip of concrete at the side of the house, leaning against the wall of the garage as I smoke cigarettes with the best cousins, the ones who've had it rough, whose faces are tired, whose stories are funny and true and hard. As an adult its a place I only visit when there's been a funeral, as that's where we have the after-the-services luncheons. You can see the graveyard from the backyard, past two sets of chain-link fences, across a dirt ravine, and up a hill. It's one of those California graveyards with flat, groundlevel markers, not upright headstones. As a kid I always thought that was kind of a rip-off.

I think that was the occasion for being there in my dream, but it wasn't sad, really, just grey in that pale, cementy, Southern California way. You catch up, wait for enough time to pass, and leave. Writing this, I realize that I don't really remember what happened in the dream so much as how it felt to be there. I know that Aunt Mickee was talking. Remember, no one's drinking at Mormon after-funeral luncheons. (At least no one's drinking publically.) So she's not talking in a drunken, confessional way, but the tone felt confessional. First the news. As she tells me what's been going on, several family stories merge together in her narrative. The same cousin who worked in a hen house in Reno and had her stepfather's baby is now, as well, the woman who left another cousin for the fifteen year old down the street, had several children with him, and married him, once they had gotten the statutory rape charges dropped.

I'm not scandalized. I'm amazed that I can put the pieces together, finally. When all the stories merge together into one master narrative they make sense and I look at her thoughtfully and nod my head as she speaks. I know how it must be. Yes, I've heard that. Mmm, I see.

2 Comments:

Blogger clc said...

Wow. What a wonderful post. I wonder if we all have one of those houses from our childhoods with the rooms you only peek into and the stories you only later, as an adult, figure out.
Certainly evoked things for me.

I'm glad I found your blog.

cindy at redbird

3:16 PM  
Blogger Margo, darling said...

Thank you for the kind words. Aunt Mickee has always been such a source of anxiety and fear for me that it felt good to work through that weird dream reconnection.

7:28 PM  

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