Location: Southeastern, United States

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Other People's Memories

1) In the car back from driving my sister to camp, a song (This Moment? something) was on the radio in the dusk, and it was the kind that you can hear staticking from a tinny record player in a linoleum-floored room, dusty screens on the windows, where women in flared skirts and heels dance with boys with buzz cuts. My dad talked about his big brother, high school class of '57, who went out in a cloud of Aqua Velva aftershave, gelled hair and a jacket with Pall Mall cigarettes in the pocket, and came back with lipstick on his collar.

2) Two yard sales next door to each other up the street. One of them is an estate sale - the aged father has just died - and when I buy a sewing pattern next door his son calls me over and offers me his mother's sewing stuff. We're upstairs looking for a pattern box in a room filled with his mother's newspaper clippings and old photos and tiny black velvet hats, and by the time I've gone they've given me a doll she sewed (porcelain, with a sprigged muslin dress) and an old mohair coat, protesting when I try to pay them. In the box of patterns I find a day planner, 1954, the year she graduated high school. The first half of the planner is full every day, with dances and dates and sleepovers with friends and notes about school. (School: Boring. School: hanged dull. School: Oh hell.) Halfway through a name appears: Dick T. She goes several weeks without seeing him. "Have been in a mood all day." her entry reads. "Nothing appeals to me. I am grumpy and dull." The next day he writes her. "Everything is wonderful!" she writes. A few entries read, "was supposed to go to the dance with Peeves. Dated Dick." On her birthday, he pinned her; two days before the New Year he asked her to marry him. In "Notes for 1955", only one thing is written: November: Marry Dick.

I walked back to the other end of the neighborhood and returned it, of course. Their mother A. is still alive; her children said she'd want to read it. I think they must have had a happy marriage: "It didn't say what they did on those dates", her son said. "Maybe a circle means something good." I'm glad I gave the book back, and have a box of patterns, for dresses with narrow waists and full skirts and little hats like curled velvet shells with veils.


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