Oh! It happened with the first naked, helpless chicken in the oven I recognized… Mommy, get it out, let it out, I cried… chickens have their own heaven, my mother lied.
At six, I dressed as Saint Teresa of Avila for Halloween… that year, I felt sinful accepting candy. More than anything, I yearned to bless their dear hands moving with generosity toward my outstretched pillowcase.
Later, I tried bright blue skin, leading my perfumed cows to drink. I wore robe of scarlet and gold, a red galero atop my head. I wore fragrant saffron in my hair, eating nothing except fruit from the ground, sweeping the earth bare before my steps… with a broom I made myself.
I danced in green meadows, wrapped ribbons around a Maypole, reached high for a golden ring. I sank into plushy new grass. Once more, the earth herself said to me, you will be all right, you will always be all right, as I lay upon her — a small, breakable doll. I lay on my mother like that (like that) (like that) (like that) for hours, eyes shut, and felt her words eternal lift off the roof of my skull and cleanse me of my fear and shame like fast-running, silvery water.
Sitting in the living room next to the indoor fish pond. Watching the tiny swordfish jump up the miniature rock waterfall, knowing and empathizing with their drive to go somewhere farther along, somewhere even unknown, somewhere presently unattainable.
Sitting on the floor next to the black Naugahyde, Father-Knows-Best chair and matching ottoman, which no one actually ever sat in, as if knowing we were not worthy occupants. Wanting a father badly, asking my stepfather if I could call him Daddy. My mother made me ask him myself, but I wanted her to ask him for me!
They married when I was four, then went away to New York City – actually the Dick Van Dyke show suburb of New Rochelle – for a year, while I lived with my grandmother. My mother worked as an “executive” secretary for Norelco, and every time I saw the commercial with Santa riding the Norelco razor down the snowbank I swelled with pride.
I started kindergarten at four, Catholic school. Nursery school, kindergarten, and first grade with the Catholics. They say if they have you until age seven, they have you for life. Saint Teresa for Halloween! I came home, told Mommy I couldn’t wait to die and go to Heaven, so I could be with Jesus; pictures of Jesus taped to the headboard of my four-poster bed. Mommy said, “That’s enough Catholic school!” So public school for second grade.
Loving the families shown in black-and-white on TV, where the biggest problem was fighting over your curfew, getting a bad grade on a test, not being allowed to go to some party where, in the end, father knew best because some kids got in a car wreck either on the way there, or after.
Having a kitchen where there were no roaches living in the toaster, or the silverware drawer. Where I could ask my mother for advice, and not have it be wrong, not have it break my heart. Dreaming of and longing for a life of being saved and shepherded by your parents, like on TV. Trusting their wisdom. I wanted to trust mine.