I rode a cloud above memory lane, chasing a request from a friend. “Tell me a memory that changed your life for good or bad,” she said, and I skimmed the road of my history searching for a worthy tale. From my birth – or as close as I can remember to it – to only minutes ago when I filed away the memory of my apprehensive kitten, Cairo, jumping up to the dining room table for the first time, I swooped lower with my cloud at beacons of light that drew me.
I stopped first to my home in Madrid. The memory is hazy from so long ago, but I can see the walled-in front yard, the fence that gave me my first black eye, and the street I crossed the day I thought it would be a good idea to go play with my friends in their home. I vaguely remember the street in between our two homes, and the day my father took the training wheels off my first bike. Was I really riding a two-wheeled bike at three or four years old?
I left Spain with a specific destination in mind, a year or two down the road. It was Christmastime in Guam, and we had made Christmas tree ornaments for our parents in kindergarten that day. Maybe it was first grade. While I cannot recall the specific grade I was in, I remember vividly the panicked feeling I had as I walked away from my school. My bus was not in the line that afternoon, replaced instead with one of a different number bearing a hastily-scrawled note in the window. It resembled the numbers to the bus I normally rode home from school, but I was certain with all the certainty a five-year-old could muster that the man behind the steering wheel was not my normal bus driver.
Stranger danger? I think so. Scared for my safety, I opted to walk home.
It turns out my bus driver was out sick the same day our bus was scheduled for routine maintenance. I remember finally arriving at home and finding the house locked and my father’s Suzuki gone. I do not remember how long I waited, but I remember smiling as my parents pulled up. I was proud of myself for making a sound decision and avoiding the potential hazard of the mass-kidnapping I envisioned after school.
I grinned from ear to ear as I handed my father the Christmas ornament I had made. I withered quickly when I realized he and my mother were not smiling, they were scowling. After an afternoon looking for me, I can understand now how my smile would have taunted them in a weird way. I was oblivious to the trouble I had caused, regardless of my reasoning behind it.
I do not think they ever really acknowledged that ornament, but I can remember every bit of paint and tinsel on it because I carried it in my hand for miles as I walked home alone.
I am not happy with these memories, regardless of the way they foreshadow the rest of my youth. They shaped me, sure, but neither changed my life. Morose and feeling unsuccessful, I sit on my cloud and continue to travel above memory lane. I watch these lights brighten as I get close, and I pass them with the promise to myself to revisit them on my own time.
Allowing my trip to slow over my time in Albuquerque, before I lost my way, I find a series of happy places and people. Elementary school was a great time for me, and my teachers were much more patient with me than I deserved. I remember my yellow, zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. When I left the house one morning, my mother told me not to put the hood up. I do not remember if there was a discussion that preceded that decree, but I remember walking around the corner of the house and promptly pulling the hood over my hair.
My mother knew, of course. When I got home, she asked me about it and admitted that she called a friend that lived in my direct path from home to school and asked her to watch for me.
Damn moms and their resources. <shakes fist>
Maybe this adventure cannot be limited to only one attempt. Finding nothing outstanding this trip is probably a sign that I need more time to find a worthy story. Will it be the friends I made skateboarding? Would it be the rebellion that eventually brought forth the independent, spitfire young woman who was ready to rule the world before her time? Would it be cheerleading competitions, kickboxing, or the triangle tree in my front yard? Summers swimming with my sister? An adult that mentored me?
Yes to all of the above.
With no definitive memory to offer my friend, I hover above Albuquerque and my life from elementary school to the Army. Maybe not being able to choose one memory requires asking for clarification on the question. Maybe it is a question that will forever remain unanswered, instead only partially noting memories and events that affected me.
We will see.