Kellie Elmore: Free Write Friday, Favorite Childhood Gift

1231698_10151679670688763_1447105361_nFavorite Childhood Gift:

My father bought my favorite stuffed animal, a monkey, in Lamberts, a store in New York City for my second birthday.I imagined Lamberts was a store filled with all kinds of wonderful things: police cars that flashed and made noise, doll babies with small pink bottles, cards for all occasions, all types of medicine including my personal favorite, St. Joseph Aspirin for children that tasted like an orange cream soda. I pictured them also having a formica counter with shiny chrome swirling stools where you could orders snacks and a black and white ice cream soda, or a frosty bright pink strawberry milkshake.

My favorite love object is a stuffed animal whose name is Nokey.I could not pronounce “Monkey” at the time. If you noticed I haven’t used the past tense it’s because I will be 57 in the beginning of October and Nokey will be 55. Yes, I still have him, I will always have him. This special friend of mine, this lovey, has been all over the world with me, wherever my family took me, I took him.

He is so important to me that my husband (and probably my grown-up children) know when I die, I want to be buried with him beside me or cremated with me. Nokey was always such a huge part of my life.

I’m not sure why he was so important but I know he was the one object I could rely on, could trust. He kept my confidences and more importantly, only he could make me feel safe. I slept with him until he was too fragile to sleep with, he went to college for a semester but after that his inner stuffing starting falling out and ungainly wires started poking out. My father, seeing old friends, brought him to a small doll and toy factory in Germany (my father was an airline employee) so that Nokey could get a face and body lift. There was nothing in New York, they only accepted “dolls.” His colors were still the same, a yellow shirt and black pants, with white sneakers but his head was a little too puffy.  In time I forgot how he used to look.

I have always imagined the toy shop high on a cobblestone street, on the second floor. The old, kindly toy maker with white hair and round glasses, looking out the window, smiling; and there would be red flowers on all the window boxes of the white house with brown trim.

Nokey has ruby-red lips upturned in a big, happy smile and I used to swing his arms back and forth because I thought he liked it. His ruby smile faded a tiny bit as he became older just as all of us fade a little with age. It didn’t matter to me, it doesn’t matter to me.I love him for all the love, comfort and warmth he brought to me. I never cared how he looked with his bandaged hand, masking tape, in many places. Shouldn’t old age be treated in the exact same way? Do we really need all these vain people trying to look young forever? Why? Yes, I’m focusing on you, “celebrities. You send such a bad message to people.

Nokey is now lying beside me with his bandaged white sneakers and his hand that was once burnt on the furnace that my dad lovingly wrapped in masking tape. I will not put him in the closet for another day, I will find a place for him where I can see him and smile and remember the comfort he gave me, as a little girl, standing outside, looking within.

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Carry On Tuesday – Only In Our Dreams

Eating Shiva

Eating Shiva (Photo credit: Mirror | imaging reality)

I felt virtuous when I sat, eating an open-faced veggie burger, with stone ground mustard and drinking ice water. I don’t feel the same way now. It’s three hours later and my son is having a barbecue for his friends. He came running up the stairs with a freshly charred hamburger on a bun dripping with ketchup and a slice of cheese slithering on top, shining with grease. I did not hesitate, I ate it  in one minute and I’m paying the price, in fullness and actual physical pain. I can’t lie; I have enjoyed it immensely along with the toasted marshmallow he brought up too. I know this game very well.

It started at birth with me, a six-week premature baby having to stay in the hospital until I gained enough weight to be able to come home. After that, my mother overcompensated and then I went full speed to fat or what they used to call “chubby.” I can pretend to eat healthy food now (most of the time) but I know that I will always be the fat, round, girl, that I have always been.

My mother could never figure out why I never wanted to go shopping when I was a child and a teenager, how could she not know? I was a very slim child only from age five to six until she decided to fatten me up, relentlessly, wherever we went. The Nestle’s Quik was at my side, spooned generously into my milk at every meal, like a religion.

Last year, I gained forty pounds when our house was demolished by termites and carpenter ants and we had to stay in a hotel, in one room, three of us and our dog, our disappointment and our dreams, dashed. My husband was also on medical leave for a snapped Achilles tendon, our sixteen year-old daughter cooped in one room with us while our house was built again from bare walls. That’s when you know who your real friends are, because it is at their house you are sharing a meal, they are asking you in and treating you like family, it saved our souls and sanity.

The only comfort in our lives was that our son was away in college was missing the trauma we were living through, and FOOD. We ate out at restaurants, two or three times a day. It was clear we were not eating healthfully, we were eating to comfort ourselves, dessert for lunch and for dinner every single day and night. French fries with your sandwich? Yes please. The only decision to make was what flavor milk shake we wanted, vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. Candy bars, cookies and crackers were stored in our hotel room like paper cups.

Piles of cakes and pies, white tendrils of coconut smiled down at us from its vanilla perch. Chocolate mousse cake winked at us from its place on the revolving cake display, cheesecake with strawberries, we denied ourselves nothing. Deep, deep down I knew what was happening though I chose to deny it; only in our dreams did I believe that we were not feeding our depression. When times were easier, better, we would deal with it. Then, we couldn’t cope with one more detail, one more restriction.

In three and a half months we moved back into our completely disorderly yellow house. For months we didn’t know where anything was. There are still boxes missing, items that some day we hope to find. I started taking responsibility for my unhealthy body. I worried about my heart, I started slowly and decided to eat more vegetables and less red meat. In the end, I lost forty pounds with another five to ten to go. I drink ice water with lemon instead of soda. I try not to have dessert but lately I have been craving something sweet. It’s a slippery slope; I have to be very careful.

I know I am the same chubby girl I was when I was little. I will always be that child in my mind and body; I will always be the last girl picked for any team sport, the fat kid, the ugly, stupid child. I don’t measure up, why should I be able to do something when my parents always said I wouldn’t be able to do it?

As we get older we make our own choices, we slip away from the past and make up our own rules, our own belief system, we cherish different qualities than those that we were taught. I taught my own children that they can do anything they want and they can do it well. Whatever they want to do they should do it with pride. There is nothing that they can’t do, nothing they can’t succeed at; in my heart, I love and like these two people. When they were young, if I was fearful for them, I hid it, because they had the right to experience life through their own feelings and not become unnerved because of mine. That, is what parenthood should be about. This was my gift to them; the gift of freedom, freedom to choose, but most of all, freedom to believe in themselves, knowing, always knowing, that I believed in them too.

"Share a memory about the house in which you grew up……"

Kids From Kew Gardens, Queens

apartment building

Not everybody is lucky enough to grow up in a house (Plinky) We grew up in an apartment building and not knowing anything else, for us, it was perfect. Imagine living in a world where you could walk down two flights of stairs where your best friend lived whose mother and grandma baked home-made vanilla crescent cookies and surprise cookies (I still dream about these) that had a Hershey’s chocolate kiss inside. I can still taste the crushed hazelnuts in the batter. Imagine going up a flight of stairs to babysit for someone you considered your pretend baby sister anyway and getting paid for that. This little, lost girl longed for attention and for someone to love and I was her older friend. I bought her candy bars with my money that her mother wouldn’t allow, I sat with her while her mother cooked two chicken legs in the toaster oven or when her mom stayed in her bedroom, under the covers for days. I watched that family from one flight of stairs away, practically living inside their house and I watched them unravel as well. A tragedy. My very first best friend growing up was a boy and he lived three flights down and we spent the first years of our lives together; our moms met in the maternity ward of the local hospital where we were born and yes, I am mere hours older than he is but a whole day. He had a gray, barking schnauzer but to us, he was Lassie. His mom made me my first milkshake, I ate at his house probably as much as I ate in my own. To this day, a mere fifty-fife years later than when we were born I am proud to still call him my friend, my oldest friend; I call him Brian and we both laugh.

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