For many years now I have thought of writing a novel. A book about my life. But my life is still ongoing so it never has felt like the right time. Why now. Because, I am tired and ready for my life to change. To go on being my life, but to be different.
The novel would be to the people I have known, and about the people I have known. I feel like many of them have been left behind, and I am sorry. My life also feels fragmented sometimes. In a real way I enjoy the feeling, but in another way all those pieces of my life hold a part of me. I have no clue if I could ever bring them together for a whole picture. Who am I?
Starting with where I was born would be the most direct, and pointless way to start the story of my life. Sure I was born. It was in a hospital, and my mother was there – but my father wasn’t. The hospital was in Berkeley, California. I moved away from Berkeley with my mom at a young age. As you can see there is no point to starting at the beginning.
So where does the epic tome about my life begin. Today is a day like many days for the last two years. I went to work, I came home, I ate and took a nap. I watched Netflix and soon I will sleep. The only novel point of the day is the start of this journey. Again no logical reason to start to story at today.
A natural starting point could be an ending point. If I had done something great. It would be a launching point. A knot to tie the story together. But all the ending points in my life have been failures.
Failed work, failed relationships. I guess I shouldn’t say all the endings. It is just the ones fresh in my memory. As a child I was not a failure.
Growing up in the foothills of Yosemite, north of Fresno, was grand. The river and land were a natural canvass to explore. Many hours as a child I wandered alone. I also wondered about life in my head. Being a thinker is always been a part of who I am. Sometimes for better and sometimes for the worse.
My great-aunt’s land seemed so vast to me as a child. Covered in hills and dales. And cows. I recall little of my youth, but I know I lived there for years, and explored it well.
When I lived there with my mother we had to dig a trench for the phone line. The trailer we lived in had no phone. The phone company wouldn’t install a line for free. My mother didn’t want to pay, so she dug a trench from the road to the trailer. And she did much of it by herself.
I recall the dusky evening. I know it was summer because the days were long. My great-aunt lived with another couple – it was their land. The man did come down and help with the digging. I assume the ditch was dug. The phone installed. But I don’t remember.
What I do remember is walking and talking to my mother. The dogs were barking in the yard. One of them I believe was our Doberman Pinscher named King. My mother never taught us much.
Hygiene was one of those lessons I have had to learn on my own. In this memory we are talking about tooth brushing. In my memory of the event I felt bad about not brushing my teeth. I felt bad, and my mother’s tone seemed to imply it was my fault. A young child, to blame for their own lack of cleanliness. It is something I don’t understand now.
I try to think different now. But to be honest it is hard. Once you start to blame yourself, to stop.
Now, my childhood was also good. Living on a natural property with a river had to be good. Mother didn’t just dig phone trenches. Sometimes she would dig swim holes in the river sand. Handful by handful. We spend many hours in the Fresno river. It forked and one side was the calm side. The other was the scary side. At least as children it was scary. In later years I couldn’t help but wonder if it had tamed.
The river was where we went fishing with safety pins and white beans. Yeah, we didn’t catch anything. We took friends to swim in the river. Once some visitor found a toy skeleton. It had hung in the neighbors tree for months. My great-aunt and her friend told us it was evil. I was curious, but also scared of the skeleton. Then it disappeared.
The kids who found it in the river thought it was real. They called the sheriff. The sheriff came out and told us it was fake. I don’t even know who those kids were.
Of course when I say we, I mean me and my sister. I lived with my sister more than anyone as a child. I moved from my great-aunt’s to my mother’s and back. She wasn’t a bad mother, just struggling with life. She did the best she could.
My sister was my friend. Not my best friend. My only friend. When you move and move and move and move, it happens. It wasn’t until the fifth grade we grew apart.
Now I have written for so long. I don’t know where my story is and where I need to take it next. To be honest, this is the longest I’ve ever written on this topic. Right now it is just under a thousand words.
When not living with my great aunt, we did live with mother. There were many houses. I wish I could recall their order. The yellow house was the first I recall.
It had a yard, with a garden. This is where I got my cat Smokey. So many times I cried over the cat because I thought we had lost him. I know he was there because I recall him hunting a mole. Was my male cat not a male?
In the yellow house mother we be angry because we at the chocolate chips. I don’t know she ever punished us, but she got angry. Now we can’t make chocolate chip cookies, she said. But who cares, chocolate chips taste better when you sneak them from the bag in the freezer. At least my childish self thought this was true.
The yellow house was were I drank some dirty water one day. It is the first time I had the thought living didn’t matter. There have been many times over the years. It was also the place I broke my arm the first time.
Me, my sister and a friend were jumping off the back of a chair. (Oh the things kids do for fun.) The friend pushed my and I fell and broke my arm. I remember a little of the fun of jumping off the chair. But not the broken arm. It is funny how our memory works.
Sometimes I play a game. I try to think of what my earliest memory is and how old I was then. Problem is how do we date our memories. I remember the yellow house and I remember the red house. But which one came first. I scan the memory itself for clues. It was the yellow house, I think. But this isn’t science. Geology or archaeology with their dating layers.
So my earliest memory. When I was two I went to Stockton with mother and my sister. The only part all these years later I recall are walking through the city in the heat of the sun. Could I it be a two-year old was walking through a city with his mother and younger sister?
Mother didn’t have a car. Around the foothills where we lived she hitch-hiked, and we did too. Pretty crazy when I think about the idea today. Walking was something we all did to get from where rides dropped us off. Also sometimes to get to a place with more traffic. I know we walked a lot. My great aunt told me to look out for my sister. It made the young small me feel important. But, what could kids do?
One time we tried to run away. We went out to get a ride. When someone stopped we got scared and ran home. My sister was my friend.
But the yellow house was close to town. One day I walked down to the end of the driveway. Cars on the highway were leaving town and speeding up. I talked to a man and watched cars for a while. I told him the police could catch speeders. Drivers were anticipating the speed limit change, before it changed. My mind was always thinking. When I think of myself at the yellow house, I didn’t feel like a child.
My sophomore English teacher wanted us to write our biographies. I didn’t do it. I couldn’t. I was failing anyway. By the time of high school the yellow house was just one of many. I think we may have lived in a dozen places, in three or four close towns.
In some ways the yellow house feels special to me. It makes me think of Van Gogh’s yellow house. Vincent had big dreams for the house. Maybe I had big dreams for my life. In my memory it was summer. The light was golden, like a movie. Things were simpler and better. But still I was debating the meaning of life. Or the value of life.