I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t at all that I am missing memories. It is just that everyday growing up was much the same as every other day. Every month the same as every other month. Every year…you get where I am going with this.
For example, every meal we ate as a family ended with the table being cleared, plates scraped into a bowl for the dog, whatever dog was present at the time – my father gave them all the same name – Gypsy. Hot soapy water prepared and the dishes washed by hand by my mother and dried and put away by me into the cupboards across the room. Let’s say we ignore breakfast and count lunch and dinner – two meals a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for twenty years – That’s roughly 14,560 times we stood at that old ceramic sink and washed and dried dishes together, my mother and me. I don’t even want to figure out how many times I crossed that room to put away dishes. It was a mundane task, performed repeatedly. It blurs in the mind. Laughter, tears, happiness, fear – that’s what makes one monotonous event stand out from the others in the fog of decades. We weren’t exactly an emotional family.
I do remember the day the Corel dinner plate broke. It was subtle, silent break lurking beneath the sudsy dishwater in the plastic dishpan in the sink. My mother reached in and very quickly drew back her hand. Blood was already spreading from the slice through the calloused skin on her finger. It dripped back into the water coloring the soap bubbles.
“What happened?” I asked grabbing a towel to wrap her finger in.
“I don’t know. Something bit me,” she said in disbelief. How would a piranha have gotten into the dishwater? I wondered but knew better than to make a joke.
I spilled the water from the dishpan slowly into the basin of the old ceramic sink. The dishes and silverware inside rose up as the tide retreated. I thought perhaps one of the sharp knives we’d used for cutting the vegetables for dinner might have gotten her. None appeared in the jumble. Then I saw something out of place. Large and small white pieces of a dinner plate that had shattered at the bottom of the dishpan.
It wasn’t a deep cut. The bleeding stopped quickly. She supervised as I sorted out the spoons, forks, knives and other remnants of the meal we just ate from the harsh-edged pieces of the plate. Like the forensic buffs that we were, we arranged the pieces on a towel on the counter and examined them. It was splintered into a group of shards spiraling out from the center of the plate that used to be: Unbreakable. That’s why we bought them, they were unbreakable. Each broken piece tapered down to a fine point and looked worthy of a role as murder weapon in any domestic violence plot on television.
“Bandaid.” My mother repeated. I had been too deep in my examination of the pieces to have heard her first request. “And Neosporin, I know,” I responded turning for the first aid in the cupboard across the room. Neosporin and a Bandaid were as important in our medicine cabinet as duct tape was in the tool box.
“I’ll finish the dishes,” I said. I put everything back into the dishpan and cleared any additional broken pieces out of the basin. Hot water was soon running and bubbling up.
“Be careful,” she warned.
I had an odd desire to save the broken pieces. For what? I loved a good jigsaw puzzle. It was kind of like that. I was curious to see if we had all the pieces. Curious to see if I could put it back together in a way that it wouldn’t be noticed. It was a break in our routine. It was broken and I always had a need to fix. My mother swept them into a trash can as I was considering the possibilities. There would be no fixing.
She was considering other possibilities as she shook the towel out over the trash can. “If one broke, any of them could break.” Dinner plates, desert plates, cereal bowls, tea cups….one break and her trust was broken for the entire remainder of the set. I nodded in agreement as I rinsed and placed each item in its usual spot in the drainer to the left of the sink.
It is the breaks I remember – the disruptions to the monotony. Different types of glass break differently, causing different injuries. It is the same with family.
The dish that broke that day had clean cracks that opened from a particular point of some stress. A cut from them was a neat slice, not ragged, and would heal with little to no scar, especially if the area was cleaned and the Neosporin had been applied quickly enough. There would be little memory of it.
Some cuts, from dull edges tear the skin more than slice it, creating a ragged edge to the wound. First aid will do what it can. It will heal, but it will be a lasting visual reminder.
Some glass creates small crumbs, deceivingly rounded looking but with sharp facets that can get ground into your skin. Too small to be rinsed away or extracted. Later they rise to the surface one by one to continually remind you of the pain that caused them initially. Those memories are hard to escape from.
Most of the breaks in our family cut you like that, like sand when you skinned your knee but much worse. They are small pieces burrowed deep into me, that I cannot forget because there is too much emotion attached. I long for the ones I don’t have cluttering my mind. There would be a peacefulness to their day to day sameness, their monotony. There would be a lack of emotion that still connects me to the experiences but at the same time disconnects me.
#iremember #idontremember #unbreakable #broken