Last Friday's warmup was a fun one. We were to think of 3 or 4 of our earliest memories and construct a scene using all of them. We had 15 minutes. And this is what I wrote.
To this day my mother still regrets moving from our house at Lake Wynonah. While we only lived there until I was about 5, I have a few wonderful memories of it and attribute part of my love for the outdoors to my life there. My brother, Ryan, and I explored the great Pennsylvania outdoors every day. Surrounded by nature and very few humans, we made friends with bugs, animals, sticks, leaves, trees, wild berries and, of course, each other. Siblings develop a strong love for one another during those early years that sometimes darkens into something resembling hatred once the teenage years begin. Usually, hopefully, this is just a layer clouding that love, which evaporates as both siblings mature. Thankfully this was our case. There weren’t many other houses around ours at the lake, which my mom loved. My dad probably loved the seclusion, too, but that’s a question I’ll never be able to ask him. Tromping through the fallen brown leaves, Ryan pointed to a tree, excited about a bug. Straining my eyes, I failed to see it. What this a trick? Probably. But as he pushed me closer, as older brothers love to do, love to test, I saw it. Stealthy camouflaged as tree bark perched the stick bug. Its body was similar to a praying mantis, and I think for that reason I wasn’t afraid. And Ryan’s presence certainly calmed my fears. If alone, I would’ve ran screaming back to the house, probably tripping over a rock. Oh the bruises, scrapes and gashes my knees and elbows endured due to my recklessness. Not to mention stubbed toes. My skin still displays some of those scars.
During another adventure we stumbled upon a field of wild strawberries, plucking and dropping them into a bucket. Perhaps it was just a small patch of them, and maybe they weren’t even strawberries, but I remember their juicy, red appearance, existing free of human destruction. That is, until a 4 year old and a 6 year old discovered them. My parents may have been there too, but I mostly remember Ryan. About seventeen years later I’ll befriend a man named Doug and find that we were neighbors at the lake. He, too, will remember the strawberries.
I wish so badly that I could better remember my father. But no matter how hard I try, how hard I close my eyes and try to recall life with him, I can only produce a few moments, those of which were mostly at our last house while he was alive, between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. I can still hear his voice, jolly and loud. Full of life and a proud York County twang. My brother sounds like him.
The one early memory I do have of my father is vivid, though the rest of my family claims it was a dream. But I know it wasn’t. It was real. I was 2, I think, possibly younger. I was still sleeping in a crib. My room was down one level from my parents’ bedroom. I awoke, peered at the open bathroom, and to my horror was a blue martian. Electric blue, glowing in the night, enjoying our bathtub. I stood up, staring at this creature. And then I started to scream. MOM! DAD! I needed them now. I needed them to see this. And I needed them to lift me from my cell and carry me away from harm. They flipped on the lights and came rushing down the short flight of stairs, their faces wrinkled with worry. I pointed at the martian, but as soon as the lights went on, it disappeared. My mom comforted me as my dad checked the tub. No martians here. I assured them I what I saw. They said it was just a dream. I assured them it was not. Who knows what else they told me to calm my fears, but I didn’t believe them. And to this day, about a quarter century later, I still don’t. I saw a blue martian in the bathtub at the house in Lake Wynonah.