Wednesday, April 7, 2010
#90 – LAUGHTER
There was a horse carriage in an old barn behind the old house, with high grass all around it. The carriage was covered with dust and cobwebs. I had no idea why we did not have a horse. The ice man had one. And so did the man who sharpened knives.
We had a black car that looked like most cars. Once someone visited in a small green car that had a fold-out rumble seat in back – the sort of place where I hoped I would one day get to sit while speeding along in the open air.
The house was very dark. In our room where my twin brother Peter and I had
adjoining cribs, the walls had cardboard cut-out figures of Jack Sprat and his wife who would eat no fat and of Jack the Giant Killer and of Little Bo Peep. We had identical enamel bowls with pictures of Old King Cole on them.Even when placed in our cribs Peter and I were usually fighting – except on memorable time when we joined forces to make what they called BMs in our crib and throw the results against the wall.
I was moved to another room, adjoining the room with the cut-out figures. It was because we fought so much. Once Peter hit me with what in memory is an iron pipe. Some clear substance that hardened like glass was put on the wound by a doctor. Once I was hit in the groin so hard my little balls swelled and turned almost black.
The far end of the dark room I was moved to was at the front of the house, which was really exciting, and still dark even with windows to the street.
The New Rochelle trolley cars rolled along outside, bells sometimes ringing – the wires above making singing sounds. And at a certain time a Good Humor truck would come by and it would stop if our nurse Josephine hung a special sign with the letter “G” in a window.
Josephine was very dark and very thin and very old and had very few teeth. She showed us how we could get castor oil down if we held our noses. She had once been the nurse for Dad and his brother and sister. She spoke in a language no one in the house could understand.
At the far end of the room, the end with windows facing the street and trolley line, there was a tall wardrobe with a tall mirror. Through the mirror there were many people always talking, sometimes laughing – people who knew me. At a time in Atlantic City with our grandparents I was surprised and pleased when it turned out that all these people of mine – people no one else could see – were along.
Mother would often get angry. You could tell when it would happen because she wore was a certain gray dress on her angry days. Sometimes she would read aloud about the elephants Barbar and Celeste and the monkey Zephyr. She would read it in French, she said, but tell it to us in English. At the end of the Zephyr book there was picture of a mermaid with bare nipples that made me feel good.
Mother had her gray dress, but no one was so angry as Dad. He came home with the parts of a brand-new lawn mower in a big box. He started to put the parts together but nothing would fit. He waved is arms and spat out harsh words and his face was bright red.
We had a thin black dog named Herbert. He lay in thresholds in different parts of the house and you were told to be very careful because Herbert was an unhappy dog who liked to bite people.
Inside the room I’d been moved to – the room with the mirror people and the sounds of the trolley – it always seemed to be night. Once I saw an owl fly into the room – an owl with ties to the people in the mirror. He landed on the top of a half-open door and stared an me, and I found it comforting.
Once there was laughter in the room. A very pretty, very smooth woman with bright white teeth, large dark but bright eyes, gold and silver bracelets, jolly curly hair – sat in front of the wardrobe laughing and laughing. Mother and Dad had said she was here because she’d been thrown out of her school. That’s what I remember them saying, “thrown out.” She was Dad’s sister. I’d never seen her. Now I was smiling and laughing too – and so were Mother and Dad – on that one day when there seemed to be light not just in the mirror but in the room itself.