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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The Object Of Being Left

Dandelion gone to seed.

Image via Wikipedia

I sprayed after shave cologne on my wrists today, it was an old bottle with maybe an inch of liquid left inside it. I found it at my mother’s home, in an abandoned bathroom drawer, where she had hidden it after my father died. They were three odd-shaped bottles left, pushed back in a drawer like teenagers hiding beer or vodka. I took those almost empty bottles home with me and today I used one. The smell was so powerful and so familiar that tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I longed to see my father wearing his  soft plain purple and blue striped shirt and feel his  arms hugging me. I willed it to happen, almost believing it and then reality took over and left me alone with a sharp pain in my heart. I miss the one person in our family who knew me best with just a faint wink of an eye or a hint of a smile. I felt lost; I felt alone.

My dad died ten years ago and I don’t feel this way all the time but the pain goes away completely. I can feel fine for weeks or months and then some memory, a scent, the sight of his old shirt crumpled up in my closet will remind me harshly of my loss. When one is young no one tells you about all the pain you have ahead of you. When you are young you think you want to be grown-up and mature but you have no idea what that really feels like. There are times when it never feels good, not even for half of a single second of any one day.

I went grocery shopping today and met a friend whose son just graduated with my son. We talked about how their graduation from High School was hitting us both hard and in unexpected times and places. She said that once in a while she has to pull off on the side of the road to just cry and then, as if nothing happened, she puts her turn signal  back on and continue her journey. I have been on that road too. While I was in the grocery store I passed water guns and felt that same feeling of loss, I wanted to cry but I wouldn’t let myself. I thought about my son and his friends and the water gun fights, one tiny water gun pistol still sitting in the back of our old, big family car, moving from one side of the car to the other.

I came home and marched up the stairs to get to my room, as fast as I could hobble, to reach for my computer and for a bunch of tissues from a yellow box. The color yellow comforts me; it makes me feel happier. I thought about my son, who is a Counselor, away at camp. He left a week ago; I feel bereft. I don’t want to call him, though eventually I will. I’d rather wait to hear his voice on the phone, starting off with the same low-key “Hey.”I am being widely immature and over emotional, part of me knows that. He is not making the transition from home to camp to college easy for me. I wonder, if at college, will he forget about us as much? When he is at camp, his second home, we really do not exist and while I am proud of my independent son, today I feel sad and lonely. Here I am, at home, opening up the window of his musty room, surrounded by half eaten boxes of cookies. Pain, like accumulated  laundry that sits in the middle of his blue carpet, taunts me.

Kaddish, In My Own Way

It’s the night before New Year’s Eve; almost 8 years ago plus a night that my father was proclaimed dead at 10:20 pm. In virtually 25 hours from now. I thought, perhaps, that I should write tomorrow instead of tonight, but I’ve learned the hard way that when you want to write just do it, because otherwise the thoughts and feelings will not be able to be resurrected. Funny word to use, resurrected. If only.

I miss my dad more than anyone will know. I miss his gentleness, his soft hands, his blue-gray eyes and his always reassuring smile. I miss him telling me “not to worry” and that it does get better with age. I miss having in my life and in my children’s lives.  More importantly, I miss him in my mother’s life because what she is without him, is not someone I really know.

I remember a time when my father was very depressed, clinically depressed and my mother became nasty, and angry and also very depressed.  I remember saying at the time that I felt “like I had lost my father and my mother.”  It wasn’t far from the truth and I’m sure not uncommon. But it was incredibly painful to be a child mourning two strangers, two parents.

I wrote earlier how I didn’t know my mother anymore; her nastiness, bitterness, anger.  I recognize this time of year for her, of course,  but I also do not know this woman I call “Mom.”  A once-gracious,  charming, likable and happy woman, that still can charm any stranger she meets; but, now, also a woman who holds the pettiest of grudges, all the time, and for all time.

My father was the ying to her yang, he was the soothing, gentle part of her that we knew and loved. Without him smoothing out the ripples, there would have been many more fights and disagreements, as they are now. I knew he played the game all along, but apparently my mother never knew that he listened to both sides of stories and adapted to each one, in order to have peace in the family.

There is a significant hole in my heart and soul that nothing can replace.  I miss my dad, because once you lose a parent, you are never, ever the same.  Not ever.  Maybe because my dad and I were so alike that missing him is so much harder for me. I’ve often said that he was the one that understood me, that could read me like a book, that we could know each others  thoughts or feelings in a second’s glance. He is not here anymore, nor will he ever be but sometimes I can see him in the actions and deeds of my son. He lives on in my son, his gentleness, his stubbornness, his capacity to love, his ability to read me as if I were made of glass.

My father was no saint. There were a lot of things he did that I did not understand or like. No one is perfect, no-one is expected to be. The reality of all this is while I mourn for my father, I am also mourning for a  mother who has become a stranger to me. I say the prayer for the dead, Kaddish, in my own way. I remember my father, I remember how much he meant to me and I give thanks for having him in my life for as long as I did. There are some people who never have had a dad in their lives, much less a good dad.

I pray that my mother will try and come back to who she was, at least with me. I hope that she can see that how she is acting is not doing her any good; only harm. So when I say good-bye to my dad tomorrow at 10:20 pm, I would love, at the same time, to be saying “hello” to my mother, a loving mother whom I seemed to have lost.