Memoir Bytes: – Love Notes and Other Words

Childhood Scribbles

Vision perception - Memoirs

 

Whenever I’m asked when my passion for writing evolved I always remember that my journey began through writing love notes for the people I loved as far back as I can remember as soon as I learned how to write, which is stated in my bio.

 

As a child, I had so much love in my heart and empathy for others going as far back as I can remember. It’s rather odd when I think back to my childhood because “I love you” words weren’t familiar words in my home, leaving me feeling uncomfortable to say them. But writing from my heart to express my feelings was easy.

 

Memoir love notes

I wrote:

I love my mommy and my daddy. I drew pictures of them and wrote: This is mommy and daddy.

 

My mother died four years ago October. When we sat ‘shiva’ in the mourning period for her at my brother’s home, my sister-in-law brought out some photos my mother kept in a worn out looking makeup case. I was still feeling a million unresolved feelings that day and wasn’t too interested in looking at them at the time. But last week I went to visit my sister-in-law and she told me she had cleared out her basement and found some photos and items I may want. I came across a few of those cards I wrote my parents along with a few of those ‘love notes’ I had written.

The notes I found had me wondering why of all the many things I’d written as a child, my mother had clung to these very few items my sister-in-law gave to me. Where were all the rest gone? And the note that moved me most was one poem my father had written to my mother. Besides how touching and beautiful that poem was, it broke my heart to read it. It had taken me back to many memories of my father asking me to help him get back together with my mother.

 

Memoir love not from Dad

It reads:

E – Is for you’re Everything to me

L – Is for my Love for you

I – Is for If I had you

Z – Is for Zilch when I’m without you

A – Is for I’ll Always want you

B – Is for you’re Beauty

E – Is for my never Ending want for you

T – Is for the Time I wait

H – Is for when I’ll Have you

 

After my tears subsided, it dawned on me that my father must have had some instinct for writing. Nobody in my family had ever displayed an interest for writing. I knew I was a blacksheep in many ways, and often wondered where my passion for writing came from. That love note was a reminder that I had inherited my compassion from my father. But did I also inherit the secret passion he had for writing?

 

Paper Towel Love Note Cover:

To Mommy from Debby (I love you inside the heart)

 

 

 

Unfolded scrap of paper towel: Inside:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Sugar and honey are sweet

But you are the sweetest

(I love you inside the heart)

 

One more I found written on a piece of cardboard. This card reminded me of the numerous cards I’d written each time my parents broke up when my little heart was aching and the only wish I had in the whole world was that they’d reunite.

Memoir love not to mom

Front of card: To Mom from Debby. I love you Daddy

Back of card: I love you mom I love you dad.

 

Memoir love note 2

Inside that card left side: Dear mom I love you and daddy I am always going to be fair with you and daddy

Left side: hugs and kisses mom xxxxxxoooooo hugs and kisses dad xxxxxxoooooo – look on back

 

I remember another card I’d made during one of their separations, which I never did see again, but the memory of that card stuck with me till this day. It said:

 

I have a mommy and I have a daddy but I don’t have a mommy and a daddy.

 

I remember that card well because I was afraid to give it to my mother and had left it lying around somewhere. She eventually found it and I got slapped for writing it.

 

Such was my tormented childhood growing up with a mother I idolized as a young child and a father who lived apart from us more than he ever lived with us. My heart ached for my father because I had such empathy for his broken heart. As I grew into a young teen my resentments began to grow for my mother as I learned to understand her manipulations and watched the games she played on my father. My love for my father never faltered. I took care of him as a child as I did till the day he died. A heaviness in my heart that even 27 years passing never lightened.

One other sad note – my atrocious handwriting remains the same. 😊

 

 

 

 

 

Memoir Bytes: – Frozen by Flames – #Memoir

Flames

 

Frozen by Flames

 

I sat on the edge of her bed and watched as she artfully drew on her Cleopatra-like tails with eye-liner – her signature look, while she drew in with deep inhalation on a Player’s Light cigarette before attempting to mirror the task on her left eye.

 

I continued to stare at my mother in awe, admiring her beauty along with her as I watched her reflection in the mirror. With all the primping and skillful artwork she performed to prepare for her usual day out with friends at the racetrack, the excitement she felt could be measured by the amount of cigarettes she smoked before completing her task. The phone would ring, and she’d step over to the night table where the beige princess phone rested and picked up the receiver, leaving yet another cigarette burn down in a steady coil of ash until the flame was extinguished.

After her call ended, the plans for the afternoon were laid out with her fancy friends, she lit another one and visited it with her lips intermittently in between trying on several outfits in search of one that may have suited her mood for that day.

After I’d complimented my mother on the flashy outfit she’d chosen for her day out, I went downstairs to play with my brother Rory. The day was a hot one so Rory and I decided to stay inside the air- conditioned house and play on our day off from school thanks to a teacher’s PD day (professional development day off). My younger siblings were in nursery and kindergarten so Rory and me pretty much had the house to ourselves other than our maid Dolly who was doing her chores and paid to keep an eye out on us.

I watched in adornment out the living room window as my mother stepped into her big white Cadillac Coupe de Ville, dreaming about the day I might too be beautiful and wear fancy clothes and have a fancy social life.

After closing the curtains once she drove off, I called for Rory who was in the basement playing as I walked through the grand foyer to the basement stairway to go join him but was stopped in my tracks by the smell of smoke. I looked up past the spiral staircase to the second floor where billowing clouds of smoke were filling the hallway, coming from my mother’s room and I screamed – except I didn’t scream because no sound would come from my mouth.

Rory patted up the stairs from the basement in response to my earlier calling of his name and saw me standing like a frozen statue in the middle of the foyer fixated on the amount of smoke I saw coming from the stairway. Rory didn’t lose his voice and screamed loud for Dolly to warn her about the fire while at the same time screaming at me to run outside with him. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t scream. I was in shock.

Rory grabbed my arm and shook me as he pulled me out the front door. We stood on the driveway together staring at the front of the house waiting – waiting for what?

I didn’t hear the sound of fire engines and as I worried with wonder what was going to happen to my house, Dolly opened the front door cursing under her breath in her Jamaican tongue – something about careless smoking. Then she came out to give us a hug and invited us back in, informing us she had put out the fire which had started by a cigarette left burning that fell out of the ashtray and kept burning on my mother’s makeup table. The black soot and fire marks left – only inches from an electrical outlet.

I called my dad who was at work to let him know what had transpired. He dashed home to make sure we were okay and to check out the state of the damage from the fire. Then he went back to work, and Rory and I went back to playing.

Mom didn’t come home for dinner that night. There were no cell phones back in the mid-late sixties. We ordered pizza and ate in the family room and watched TV together with Dad then we went to sleep. I heard the keys in the door later that night and the door close when my mother returned. And I heard the usual muffled sounds coming from my parents’ bedroom. I supposed my father may have been filling her in on the day’s events after she witnessed the damaged state of her bedroom. And the conversation grew heated as I supposed there were more arguments had over the damaged state of their relationship.

Memoir Bytes – Sing Me No Songs Piano Man

Vision perception
Memoir

 

Each night, around 8pm we’d hear the beautiful music from a piano being played next door. The music was beautiful and soothing. I was eleven years old.

We’d spend a few weeks every summer for the couple of years we owned a condo in Miami Beach there, as well as Christmas and Easter break. The piano man had to have been well in his seventies. He and his wife had introduced themselves to my mother and I one day as we passed them in our mutual hallway. They lived next door. He smiled at me with what felt like kindness, but as a young girl who was always eager for any attention paid to me, I didn’t know what was behind his smile.

My siblings and me spent many fun days at the swimming pool on those dog day afternoons of hot Florida sun. We’d swim for hours, splashing away and jumping off the diving board without a care in the world. Many days I’d see the piano man lounging at the pool. It was hard to miss him because I could almost feel him peering right through me as his gaze always seemed intently focused on me. When my eyes would catch his, he’d offer a smile so bright it was difficult not to smile back.

As the days passed, the piano man wasn’t always around, but when he was, I couldn’t help but feel he was a lonely man as he’d sit by himself and never talk with anyone. I’d look at him sometimes from the corner of my eye just to see if he was still around, but something within me warned me to keep my distance from him, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

The fact that I thought I’d seen his penis hanging out from his bathing suit one day as he lay on a sunbed with his legs sprawled apart taking in the sun didn’t alarm me because, quite frankly, I’d seen a few of those mishaps a few times when some older men were sitting awkwardly in a chair. Besides, I knew nothing about sex or desire at that age.

I was the carer of my siblings by that age, even on vacation our mother was busy socializing, out with her then boyfriend on some lazy afternoons when she thought she wouldn’t be missed. We spent most afternoons at the pool there during those summer holidays while my dad was back home in Toronto working. I’d learned years later that my mother’s boyfriend was indeed a family friend who coincidentally also had a condo with his family in our same building in Florida. Convenient.

Nobody seemed to pay any mind to that piano man, not even my mother.

One day when I’d had enough swimming and wanted to head upstairs for some lunch, I found myself sharing an elevator with the piano man. I supposed he’d had enough sun too and was going back to his condo. He never spoke, just smiled at me the whole time in the elevator then he followed closely behind me as I exited the elevator. His door was next to ours so I thought nothing of the coincidence, as a naive girl of eleven.

While I stood at my door fiddling with my keys, he’d caught up to me. I felt him push his body up against me as I was opening the door. In that exact moment as I flung open the door, and wondering what he was trying to do, my mother appeared in the front hall doorway. The piano man said hi to her and made a beeline for his condo.

My mother never suspected anything other than perhaps he’d been walking me to the door. I was confused at the man’s actions but never mentioned any of my concerns to my mother or anyone else. After all, what did I know in 1970 about pedophiles?

That story could have had a much worse ending, and it’s a story I’ve never forgotten. I never had any growing up lessons from my mother. I knew nothing about the birds and the bees, only about never having courage to ask my mother about anything personal, especially about anything regarding my private parts, my fears, hopes or otherwise.

Many children share some of the same fears I had as a child because their parents don’t give them a platform to discuss their personal selves or don’t allow them to feel comfortable doing so. Particularly in the world we live in now, parents must talk with their children, not scare them, but make them understand that when strangers approach them, invading their private space, or trying to lure them away with offers of treats or fantastic adventures, they must understand the boundaries of safety. They must talk to their children and make them feel comfortable about coming to their parents with any concerns.

Had I felt a comfort talking with my mother, I would have told her about the man who kept staring at me whenever he was around, his penis hanging out of his bathing suit, and him pushing himself on me. I knew instinctively that he was trying to get into the condo with me, not merely walking me to the door. I was scared of that man after that day. I didn’t tell my mother I was scared, but I never again went in that elevator or into my condo alone without asking one of my brothers to come with me. I learned from my own instincts and gratefully, it wasn’t too late. By the grace of God I wasn’t raped.

Memoir Bytes – What is a Sister?

Vision perception

Memoir Bytes – Sister Love

Sisters come in all shapes and sizes and so do the relationships we have with them. We have best friends and tribe friends we sometimes call sisters and sometimes we don’t have to be blood related to someone to think of them as a sister. But there are just some sacred things that sisters share that nobody else could fill those shoes. So today I’m writing about my one and only sister who is 6 years younger than I am, although many times in my life I’ve considered her my big sister.

 

When I think back to our growing up years in our dysfunctional family, there were 4 of us and my sister and I each had a brother we chummed up with who stood by our sides through thick and thin and defended us when it came to secret oaths, ‘not to tell mom’. But my sister and I had never developed a closeness when we were younger. Being that she was the youngest and I the eldest, and her having the least guidance from our mother, she was a bit of a wild child while I was anal about trying to be the best I could be to avoid my mother’s wraths. Marni was fearless.

When we finally got our own bedrooms, I was glad for my privacy but would often scream at my sister for snatching a sweater or blouse out of my cupboard. We had nothing in common with our age gap, and to me she was just a pest. But our relationship changed when I turned 18 and moved away from home, Marni was only 12 years old.

By the time I turned 20 we became friends. And when she’d had enough of my mother’s rants she’d flee to my apartment for some sanity and peace of mind. Oh how I took on my mother when she’d call to scream at me about my sister running away and telling me that when she gets home what her next punishment would be. I’d reply the same thing as always and tell her, better Marni was with me than out on the streets. And so my bond with my sister began to grow.

D.G. Kaye and sister

 

I was single, going to University part time and working part time. Money was tight and through the next couple years, Marni quit school and started waitressing. She made more money than me in tips alone and I’ll always remember how she’d come over, buy me a quart of milk, a pack of cigarettes and give me $20.

My sister married young, and if you ask me, I think her decision to marry young was enhanced by her desire to get out of my mother’s rule. From the get go there were problems, yet she had 3 beautiful children with that man who she finally wound up booting out when the kids were still very young. Her kids were and are like my own.

Our relationship moved to her house from my apartment as she’d never leave her kids with a babysitter, and we had many card and game nights through the years where our girlfriends would congregate at Marn’s to pass an evening together. Those years were especially life saving for me when I was stuck in an abusive relationship for many years and I’d run to her house for refuge.

There was always drama in our family, lots of sickness, too many deaths, financial issues, abusive relationships, and a narcissistic, demanding mother who gave us grief on a daily basis. But somehow, what didn’t kill us certainly strengthened our relationship.

I was always spiritual, interested in magical things, laws of the universe, spirits of the dead and witchcraft. I was gifted with a sixth sense and an inner knowing passed on through my grandmother and mother, all of which my sister didn’t believe in. In my early 30s I became very interested in natural health and studied naturopathy for years, while my sister would laugh and say I’m crazy to believe in ‘that stuff’. We were certainly different in our beliefs, yet we got along.

My sister was always the ‘Florence Nightingale’ in our family, the first to rush to anyone’s aid should they need it. I always had a great fear of blood and hospitals, and did my best to dodge having to be around sick people. My empathetic nature makes me very uncomfortable around people in pain.

When I was diagnosed with a tumor on my heart valve in 2006, my sister’s kids were in their mid teens and she left them for 3 weeks to come move in with me and my husband to take care of me after my open heart surgery. I couldn’t even change my own bandage without wanting to vomit, but she did that, showered me, propped pillows around me so I could sit comfortably when it was time for bed, as I couldn’t lie flat for a few months. She drove me to the numerous hospital visits prior to the surgery for tests when I lived a good hour and a half away from that hospital.

When my siblings had taken all they could from our mother and I hung around for more, my sister begged me to get her out of my life as she exasperated my flare ups with my Crohn’s disease. It took me a few more years of taking my licks until I finally walked away too, and still, I carried the guilt. My sister used to tell me if I didn’t find a release for the guilt I carried I’d be a mess the day our mother would finally die. I’d tell her I can handle it. We both knew I was lying.

I began writing Conflicted Hearts a few years before my mother died, and the writing became my savior. Although I wasn’t completely cured of guilt, writing the book became therapeutic. And then once again, at the brink of my mother’s death when new guilt had set in for my abandoning her and my resolve not to go back one more time, I knew I had to find closure. I had to find forgiveness for her and for myself, for my decision to remain estranged. Writing P.S. I Forgive You was emotionally painful but when it was all said and done, the weight of guilt had finally lifted. My sister is proud of my accomplishments, yet still hasn’t brought herself to read those books. Some people just refuse to go back ‘there’.

Our once large family has dwindled. Our parents are gone and so are all of our aunts and uncles. Marni and I are now the matriarch. We’re still different in so many ways. I am the feminine, she the masculine. I like girly things, she’s happy in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. We find solace in one another when hard times strike, and celebrate our victories with one another. No longer does she borrow my sweaters. But she’d give anybody the shirt off of her own back.

 

The Pink Basket

basket

Lately, I have been reading many books on writing, in particular, writing in memoir. A great book I just read and has now become a great reference book for writing prompts is Old Friend From Far Away, by Natalie Goldberg. Her writing is intense with descriptive words and the lessons she uses to promote ten-minute writing prompts to awaken the creative juices in a flash are so motivating.

One of Goldberg’s first prompts is, “I am looking at …”. She writes, “You have ten minutes to write, go!” I have been using this exercise a lot lately. Since reading her book, sometimes while I’m not writing, I find myself doing something around the house and my attention may be drawn to a mundane object and I begin creating stories in my head about them.

This little story came to me  while I was doing a load of laundry. When I took a load out of the dryer, I placed it into my old faithful, pink laundry basket. Many times when I look at that basket, I chuckle when I think about how old that basket is and where it came from. I began with “I am looking at this pink laundry basket” and my memory took over.

The basket has been around my homes for well over half a century! When I moved away from home as a  teen, I took it with me as my mother prepared to toss it out while we packed up our family home. Everyone was moving. My parents were finally divorcing and my dad sold our beautiful home with the circular driveway.

My father had already moved out. My mother was taking my younger siblings to a smaller home and I was eager to find peace and start life on my own at eighteen. I was young and starting from scratch so I inherited some furniture from our home and I knew I would be needing a laundry basket, and whatever I didn’t have to buy was good enough for me.

I never really gave much thought to the basket other than its usefulness. Through the years I have moved a lot and that basket came everywhere with me. But as the decades passed, it had become very symbolic. With its once bright pink color, it had become faded to a lightened shade of peach. The years had left many marks on it but it is still in perfect condition and sturdier than the flimsy baskets made today.

When I was four years old, I loved to play with that basket. This is certainly quite an odd object for a child to want to play with, but for me it became a kind of safe-haven. I grew up living in much discord and I feared my mother’s temper. When I was very young, I used to imagine I was a princess who would one day be famous and free. Quite a combination for a young child to think about, and the famous part especially was interesting because I didn’t know what I wanted to be famous for. I would jump in my bed and I would put that basket over my head—like a cage, as though I were in solitude. Nobody could find me (I thought) and I was safe from the noise of my mother’s rants.

Once inside my own private world, my imagination took over and I would go into my princess land and I felt safe and content.

Goldberg’s book opens up the imagination. You begin with being prompted such as: “I am looking at,” which starts the writing and your thoughts will drive you to the story from what you are looking at. You don’t stop to think or revise. You follow your thoughts from the initial object you began writing about, and the writing begins to take on a new life about the subject as you continue to write. There are many writing prompts in Old Friend From Far Away which awaken our memories and can be used over and over using different subject matters.

DGKaye©2014