THE CHALLENGE: My friends gave me a subject, a line, a word or an idea and I agreed to write about it for exactly one hour. Stream of consciousness. Unedited.
…And whether it is finished or not, I post it.
Pumpkins- Kathryn Connors
Start: 10:00 PM
End: (with lots of interruptions) 11:00 PM
My knees were beginning to ache against the hardwood floors.
I had been sitting for hours, legs folded under me, with a photo album in my lap. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for… furiously flipping through the yellowed and dusty pages for pieces of myself that I had never known. Old glossy, floppy Kodak memories reflected the ceiling fan light of my childhood bedroom.
She went to her deathbed still clinging onto secrets she felt I needed to be protected from. My mom, I mean.
My brother and I were clearing the house today. The landlord was itching at the opportunity to put the dilapidated structure back on the market.
“I can get two Mexican families in there for twice the rent”, he spat just days before. A sensitive and heart-felt remark of condolence at her wake…. just feet from the open casket. He had been our landlord for nearly 30 years. We had him over for Christmas dinner.
This was the house where I grew up. Hell, I was born in the living room.
My childhood was going to be signed away for a monthly fee.
I guess it didn’t matter, anyway. I hadn’t lived within 100 miles of home in almost a decade.
I had come into her bedroom, alone, trying to move the bed by myself (unsuccessfully), before collapsing onto the floor, breathless and confirming that I am completely out of shape. That’s when I saw it: A photo album under the bed.
It was red, and the binding was almost completely destroyed from use. The cover was holding on by mere threads. On the inside of the cover was a message written in faded marker:
The Lyons Family. 1991.
I found myself on the floor, what felt like hours later, stuck on the third page, entranced. There was only one image and an inscription. I traced the photo with my finger, feeling my way through the mystery. This whole album was from before I could form memories… and I had never seen it before. No one had ever mentioned it.
“October 31st, 1991. My sweet little pumpkins. E (left) and M (right).”
The caption was written on a lined-sticky note, blue ink, my mother’s sharp, thin cursive leaning slightly to the right. Precise; to scale. You could measure the script for accuracy and find no flaw. Reading her handwriting caused one to inadvertently raise an eyebrow and straighten their posture. Regardless of the subject at hand, the precision created an impression of confidence equivalent to a Stephen Hawking publication.
E, that was definitely me. Emily. I am Emily.
My mom always told me that all the photos of me before I was a year old were destroyed. A “baby-pulled-the undeveloped-film-out-of-the-camera” story. (Yes, there was a time, before the digital/internet age in which our memories were much more fragile… and an unsupervised baby could destroy all photographic evidence of a young family). And video? Well, somehow those were recorded over on our $200 VCR. They said either me or my brother did that… I don’t remember. It just became fact. I was content with the fact that I wouldn’t have a picture of me, fresh and slimy in my first moments of life or timeless moments captured of me learning to walk, crawl, talk-
But, I’m a summer baby. July. 1991. This is October.
That’s… 3 months.
In the picture, it’s the living room. This living room, I recognize it. The familiar blue couch looks new, before we got our dog, Stanley. Before I tried to paint my nails when I was 6. Before several years’ worth of “The floor is lava” completely deflated the cushioning of the arm rest. When the back cushions still maintained their square shape. When a cloth couch was acceptable to keep in a modern family’s living room.
There, in the corner, is my brother. He has to be… three years old? He’s dressed as Snoopy, clinging to my Mom and looking shyly at the camera from behind her long, thin legs. He’s jack-o-lantern plastic bucket lay at his side, hanging loosely and smiling mostly to our white carpet.
….I always thought that carpet was a light brown…
Mom looks happy, and thin. Sharp angles of her jaw and cheekbones made her the mold most models try to pour themselves into. She’s dressed in a red tee shirt, high waisted (awful and so late 80s) jeans, a blue blanket in her right arm, held to her cheek. Her long, straight blonde hair is pulled into a low ponytail. She is playfully biting her thumb and flirtatiously looking at the camera.
oh my god..
…is she a sexy Linus?
Jesus, a family theme. A family Peanuts theme.
On the couch, just to the left of mom, were two babies, dressed as tiny pumpkins. They sat in their fat in the way that babies under 6 months do… you know, before they can really hold themselves up or do much of anything. They sort of leaned both on the back of the couch and on each other. The one on the left looked like it was seconds away from falling completely over onto the other.
They looked exactly alike. E, me, Emily… the dumb baby on the left about to fall over (typical). And on the right-
…who is this other baby?
Who is M?