Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I went all the way to Rhode Island .....

And all I got was this lousy cold. A snot laden, pressure filled head cold with delusions of grandeur ( I think it wants to be an upper respiratory infection when it grows up). I can't breathe, I can't think, and I certainly can't write, not even a little. I can't even whip it up to catch up with everyone in my reader because I'm hopped up on NyQuil,the Care Bears have shown up, and I'd probably say something ridiculous in your comment section. I promise as soon as the fog clears and I'm not hallucinating annoying cartoon characters I will catch up with everyone. In the mean time, I thought I'd re post a piece I wrote when I first started blogging. I think I had two whole readers back then, so hopefully it won't be too redundant.

True Story
When I was just about 4 years old, my parents and I were living in student housing while my father completed his doctoral degree here. During that time my mother substitute taught while finishing her teaching degree.

At times my care fell to Lucy, a wizened southern black woman whom my parents met while commissioning her husband to build a trestle table for our kitchen. I still have a warm fuzzy for that long, darkly stained hunk of a table that was still in our house long after I left for college.

Lucy and her husband evidently took a shine to this very young,student poor hippie couple and their precocious child who liked to sing at the top of her lungs to anyone who'd listen, so Lucy would offer babysitting services on afternoons my mother had to be at school. Sometimes she would clean while she watched her "stories". Id sit at that table and color, listening to Lucy talk back to the TV as she shuffled around the kitchen.

One afternoon as Lucy cleaned the kitchen floor, the smell of Spic-N-Span permeated the whole house (that smell, 36 years later, forcibly reminds me of that day),when she opened the screened door and just stood there leaning heavily on her dust mop. I thought she was tired, and needed help shaking out the mop, so I walked over to help her.

"I don't need help child, Lucy just needs to catch her breath"

Those were the last words she spoke. She stumbled back into the kitchen and promptly passed out, falling unceremoniously into my beloved rocking chair. I remember being very concerned for my little red rocking chair, as it was not meant for grownups to take naps in.

"Lucy? Lucy? Ummm, I'm going to go take a walk now" I think on some level I knew something was wrong, but my 4 year old self did not quite understand what that "wrong" could be. As far as I was concerned, she had simply fallen asleep, and In MY red rocking chair.

I wanted my dad to come home and make Lucy get up out of my rocking chair, but I knew he was at the lab working. The Lab was down a short wooded path, across the main highway, and in one of three big red brick buildings. But which one? I toddled myself up to the big road and stopped. I had been told in no uncertain terms that I was NEVER EVER to cross that road without an adult. NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!! SO, I did the next best thing. Yelled.


I'm not sure how long I stood there yelling across the street at the facades of those buildings, but I remember being enthralled at the way my voice echoed off of them. So much so, that I almost forgot why I was yelling at them in the first place. I was four, after all. Luckily our next door neighbor who was also class mate of my father's was home for lunch and heard me yelling.

"What's wrong Chanda?"
"Lucy fell asleep in my rocking chair and won't wake up" (again with the rocking chair).

He stood there for a moment, probably trying to process what this kid just said, then sprinted back toward the house, leaving me to wonder what the big deal was.

Lucy had died of a massive stroke - instantly.

That night my mother sat on the edge of my bed to talk to me about what had happened. She was convinced I would be traumatized, permanently scarred by what I had seen.

"So,is Lucy coming over again tomorrow?"
"No, Honey, she died today"
"Where did she go?"
"Heaven" (as all good Irish Catholic moms would say).
"Is she coming back?"
"No, but she's happy where she is"
"Oh,Okay. Can I have chocolate milk for breakfast?"

Early childhood memories before the age of 4 are spotty at best, but this one stands out in extreme clarity, but not in a traumatic way. At least that's not how I perceived it. Not once do I remember being scared or anxious, even after I had learned of her death. I don't know what that says about me, if anything, or if that's just a how a little kid processes abstract concepts like death.


Heather said...

That is an amazing story. (Oh, sorry about the cold) I wouldn't feel badly about not feeling scared etc. Young children do not have the same frameworks to address the world. It is one of the reasons we all "love" that age, you can just take the world as it comes to you.

FairiesNest said...

Get well soon!! I hear you have the munchkins this weekend too! I'm sending healing vibes your way...

Vodka Mom said...

that was indeed an incredible story. And, of course, you told it very eloquently. I was enthralled. (and sad...)

we_be_toys said...

This was a great story - again!
It is weird, that when you told me this story, oh, a million years ago, we laughed our heads off, but now, maybe because I'm sober (!!), it has more pathos.
Either way, it's an epic tale.

Ben and Bennie said...

Incredible story. If I have to go that's the way I want it to happen.

Gypsy said...

Oh man, how terrible! I'm glad you weren't scarred for life. Kids are resilient, though. Or so they say.

Nicely written. ;)

Cammy said...

So sorry you're ill and hope you feel better soon. thanks for sharing your amazing story...

Hanlie said...

I think your reaction to these events were entirely normal for your age! It would have been a different story if you had witnessed a violent death...

Great story!

Lara said...

not redundant at all... what a wonderful narration.

Being Brazen said...

What a bittersweet story..

Feel better soon

Real Live Lesbian said...

Well told story! I also think children have a different perception of death.

You have a wonderful talent for putting the reader right there in the middle of the story!

Hope you feel better soon!

Barb said...

First time visitor here and wow ~ what a powerful story. I can just see the little 4 y/o standing out by the highway yelling for her dad. Hope you are feeling better soon.

Duck said...


That's the worst story ever! I can't even imagine.

I mean, I'm still traumatized by one of the babysitters I had. She was an elderly lady who lived in a little house. I'd get dropped off for the afternoons with some other random little boy who I still to this day have no idea who he was. One time I remember her screaming at me when I got crayon on her lace doily. And she used to watch soaps all afternoon. In one episode a pregnant woman died when she fell down the elevator shaft in a burning apartment building. I STILL am freaked out by it.

But damn. This is far far far worse.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You were good even at the start of your blog? I'm jealous.

Hope the fog clears soon . . .

Maggie, Dammit said...

Oh, wow. WOW.

That's like... my worst nightmare. I'm scared of weird things like that every time I leave my kids. That must have been so... I don't know, FORMATIVE.

(I'm clearly way behind on my blog reading. I assume you are feeling better now my sweet?)

woolies said...

You weren't traumatized, simply because you accepted it. She died. In your red rocking chair. I wish everybody could accept death as easily as your four year old self.

Wonderful writing.