Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From the Vault: I'm Alive

I was eight when I got my skates.

I don't remember the occasion for the gift...Christmas? Birthday? The dates are so close together anyway, one has always blurred into another becoming one giant month of gift-receiving for a girl whose combined wish list couldn't exceed a $50 limit for most of her rearing.

I do remember it was the year after I asked for - and received - (used) crutches.

Foreshadowing of her broken? Perhaps.

Each day afterward - and for about two years...for as long as they would fit my growing feet - I rushed to our peach hued, pre-fabricated home in Meadowlark Hills after school to slide the supple, creamy quads onto my feet, lacing them tightly around my ankles. I'd then sneak the Xanadu soundtrack on vinyl from my sister's collection - double album (that you can't find anymore), put the record on the turntable in the living room, and race across the kitchen linoleum to the top of the basement stairs and slide down, down, down to the safety of the unfinished basement concrete. On roller skates.

Hours I spent every day obsessively skating. Back and forth, around and around, backward, forward, twirling, leaping...

Had I spent those hours practicing piano, perhaps I'd be SOMEBODY now...

Or not. After all, I never made anything of myself on the professional rollerskating circuit either. But then, I never tried to be SOMEBODY at either one.

Most days, the music would run out long before my stamina would. And so, rather than run up the stairs - which is exponentially harder to do up than down - on skates to change the music1, I'd make up my own songs and sing them, as Kira might sing to Sonny (Xanadu reference, sorry), as I skated and skated...and skated. I wrote a few of the songs' lyrics down...on the backs of used envelopes, old homework pages, scraps of old grocery I wouldn't forget what I'd composed the next day, the next week, the next month. So I could sing it. Again...and again.

Two decades later, a relatively grown up, college-educated Jane sat in the finished basement of a different house, in a different town, savoring what few childhood mementos from a single cardboard box marked simply "Jane" she had - a cardboard box filled after a frenzied garage cleaning by her mother. Nestled among the Legos, the paper dolls, the award certificates for "Highest Achieving Girl", the straight-A report cards, the tattered baby blanket sewn by her pregnant-with-Jane mother as her grandmother laid dying, too young, from cirrhosis of the liver, was an envelope - a battered, postmarked envelope - with a carefully penciled poem written in pre-cursive print on the back.

That poem - a song sung over and over so that she can still remember the tune - was about death. About dying. About finding peace among the dead.

And grown up Jane felt ashamed and embarrassed - rather than horror and grief - for 8-year-old Jane2 who had been and had written - and felt - such things.

1: The turntable and stereo receiver were upstairs. However, Blind Betsy also installed speakers - HUGE SPEAKERS - down in the basement...or maybe it was my brother, Franny, who installed them since his bedroom was down there...drilling holes through the floor to run the speaker wire.

2. Yes, I know I switched from 1st person to 3rd person. It seemed somehow right to write this way. Also, no. I'm not I was once - somewhere between writing the song and discovering its lyrics. But never again. This is "From the Vault" memories.


Gaelyn said...

Oh how I loved to roller skate. Outside on the next street over, paved, during the summer. And in the basement in winter. But no Xanadu at that time. However, I love that movie. Gene Kelley was my crush.

Sure glad that young Jane made it to be the Jane of today. Great memory.

Anonymous said...

There us no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about 8-year-old Jane's poem. Many children have to experience and cope with difficult grown up situations everyday. Little Janey made something beautiful out if it, a memory and a song.

alienbody said...

I grew up in Southern California, the weather was mostly un-weatherish, as in...always kind of dry and warmish and boring. I could skate almost year round. A few years later my momentos were tossed around and destroyed in a police raid of my parents house. Long story...we should chat sometime. But, Xanadu? Yup, I fully remember Olivia in that movie. And since it came out in 1980, that made me 11/12...ack.

Julie DeMille said...

My sisters and I lived on our roller skates. There was a business park near our house with tons of smooth sidewalks. (I wish we'd had a basement, that would've been awesome!) I didn't see Xanadu till much later (on VHS) but I would've loved it as a kid!
I think it's great that you have the poem. It's fascinating to see what we thought/felt as a child.

Bon said...

I used to love to roller-skate. Unfortunately, I was a somewhat clumsy kid...
Ok, I MIGHT still be somewhat clumsy!

Heh. At any rate, this was a beautiful story. I am a so very glad that you aren't suicidal. The world would miss you.

Eeeee! Xanadu!
*shifty eyes*
We'll just pretend that I didn't squee like a schoolgirl over that. Because I would totally lose Goth cred if someone saw that. ;D

Peaceful Warrior said...

Hi Jane, I loved the story. It is great for us all to remember old memories now and again.
As I'm a new follower can I ask. Did you post the poem somewhere or am I being dumb?
I would love to add the poem to my guest poem blog if you have it. Such deep things should be shared I guess..

Keep on with your great stories and tales of life.

Also glad that you had enough love to get yourself through the sad times and still be here gracing our world.

Big hugs and loads of love.

Frances D said...

YOu have reminded me that I need to blog about my one and only skating experience. Mine was not a Xanadu fanstasy - lol - it included among other horrors being run down by a group of 5-7 year old girls celebrating a birthday.
Waving at you from New York

Masked Mom said...

Though I no longer have much of anything that I wrote before I was 15, I can definitely identify with that squirmy embarrassed feeling of discovering former aspects of myself in writing somewhere. I think I've gotten a lot better at mustering compassion for the person I used to be, but it's still definitely a work in progress.

I hesitate to admit this for fear of losing my child of the '70s and '80s credibility, but I never saw Xanadu all the way through. My sister, however, was completely obsessed with it. :)

Lucy said...

Oh, my gosh, what a great story gosh, I have forgotten all about Roller Skates and Xandu and things I wrote a long time ago, heck I get embarrassed or think, 'Wow, what was I thinking' about blog posts from a few months ago.
Although, at age eight, I am so sorry you were so very sad and lonely and I am so glad you are here today to share your thoughts and feelings with us :)

Laine Griffin said...

Yay for roller skates!!! :)
~Crazy Eyeris