Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wild Things

I have some very firm memories of when my family lived in Chicago.  We only lived there until I finished kindergarten.  Most of these memories involve the neighbor kids that I got in trouble with a lot.  An inchworm we fought over until someone got pinched.  The time my brother and his friend tricked me into eating "poison" bird berries and convinced me I was going to die.  The huge chicken-costumed man my mother hired for my (fourth?) birthday party.  

I saw an article once by a memory expert that said that one is more likely to remember something that is accompanied by a strong emotional reaction like fear or stress or embarrassment.  I can say I mostly agree.

Some of these memories, though, are my parents and my family just being family.  These are precious to me.  These are memories of my family all living together.   After I finished kindergarten, my older set of siblings were finished with high school and they all went to college allowing my parents to follow my dad's transition from the steel industry to the paper industry, which meant moving to upstate New York in the Adirondack Mountains.

But for my first five years, my brothers had bunk beds.  My sister and I shared a room that smelled like her perfume and had bouquets of flowers tucked in above the mirrored dresser.  My dad ran the Chicago marathon and took my closest brother and I on Hot Wheels to train with him.  My mom rode a bike with one of those kid-buckets on the back and her hair would get in my face as she rode.  My older brothers' room was always stinky and dark and they would sleep all the time.

When my close brother (almost 2 years older than I) started school, he came home and taught me how to sound out words and read every day.  I was three when I started reading.  My mother signed me up for preschool then and told the nun that I could read - I had to read from the newspaper to prove it.

Many of my memories from this time revolve around books or snippets of them.  Sounding out new words with my mom at the kitchen table.  Reading to my dad in the orange striped chair.  Reading to my sister.  Reading.

Make Way for Ducklings.  Frog and Toad Together.  The Emperor's New Clothes (I couldn't understand why he would want to be nakey!).  Weekly Readers and Highlights for Kids.  Ranger Rick.

I have a special place in my heart for these books.  For the time when my whole family lived out of one house.  For the silly songs my dad would sing to make us laugh.  For the creative things my mom would come up with when we were bored or sick or crabby.

I recently purchased Where the Wild Things Are for Tad.  Most children's books I've read thousands of times since my own childhood to my nieces and nephews.  This book seemed to be an exception.  As I was reading it, I could hear my dad doing different voices of the characters and the way we would both cry "Let the wild rumpus start!" at that part of the book.  The smells of my mom's kitchen filled my nose, and I could see the way the swivel lamp lit the living room.  I could smell my dad's work clothes and his DoubleMint breath.  

Max and the Wild Things brought me back to the time when my family was everything that I knew and everything that I needed.  And now it's my own little nuclear family.  Well, let the wild rumpus start!


Elizabeth said...

You're in for the adventure of a lifetime! It is so fun to be able to switch roles and be watch your daughter as she grows and wonder what little experiences will become a part of her adult psyche and influence the way she sees the world. Can't wait to watch the fun start...only a few more days to go!

Jess said...

This post is so full circle! And beautiful. I love those memories you shared.

Lindsay said...

I remember reading all of those when I was little, too. What a nostalgic post. :o)

Amber Theiss said...

Love the post Lizzie. I even got teary at the end. My girls and I still "Roar our terrible Roars" almost everyday. Love you both!!