Friday, December 29, 2017

ghost stairs

The old downtown library was something straight out of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. My childhood brain ties it to the rolling backseat of a brown Buick station wagon, to the smell of hot sunlight trapped in vinyl.

Tied in bows to the memories of the cavernous maze of tiled halls of the Deseret Gym. With its steamy locker rooms and cologne of chlorine. Soft, bubbly naked white bodies pulling on and off gauze like temple garments.

Childhood tied to church, tied to the tree lined streets of Harvard-Yale, tied to dust fairies, and green shag carpet. Chicken noodle soup and the voice of Paul Harvey.    

I remember being a kid. 

I remember the way it smelled and how time moved. Blue gym shoes with laces so old they would break off between my fingers when I tried to tie them. Corduroy OP shorts bought in the boys department of Penny's and striped polo shirts with bent white collars.

Not exactly the expected wardrobe for the youngest of three sisters.  I barely fit into my little Mormon body and its little Mormon life. Every Saturday night blonde hair combed and pulled tight, wrapped into submission of pink curling rollers for church. Brown eyes that drifted into day dreams too easily, skinned knees peeking out from a lace hem, stubbed toes shoved inside scuffed Mary-Jane's.

A childhood of the seventies didn't have things like car seats and helmets. We ate chocolate bars and watched cartoons. We drank orange tang and played kickball on the tar-top at the school. Street lights and the theme music to Dallas set curfew. I hardly remember adults outside of avocado tiled kitchens and maroon church halls. AND In my childhood, Church was a verb. 

A few weeks ago I woke from a dream and found myself trying to unravel a question about the church building my family attended. There was, at least in my mind, a set of stairs I couldn't account for.

Two days of wandering through my memories I finally gave up and began researching the building on-line looking for ghost stairs. Stairs I think I can remember being ushered down in costumes. Being cautioned to step carefully down the slope in low light, in stillness, in dust.  Whispers and the sound of shoes padding on thin wood- it makes me think of red painted plywood.

The same shade of red on the painted mirror from the Baby Nursery bathroom. The room beneath the stage.  Down a set of stairs I know exist. To the west the Cub Scout Room with its yellow lacquered logs butting out of the walls. To the east the Baby Nursery. A tiny, dark room but not scary-dark, comfortable dark, with a rocking chair, a changing table, a few well used baby toys, and a small bathroom. A room without expectations in a building full of them, where young moms could slip away. Babies under 18 months.... and I remember it. I remember being there on the floor. I remember the small basement window, the bin of toys, the rocking chair, the sink, and the red mirror. I remember both church nurseries; all 3 of them, if you count the one at the Deseret Gym too.  

Last night something trigger an anxiety attack. I'm still not exactly sure what it was... was it something from All The Missing Girls? Morning gym? Saturday Bars? A dentist appointment, the smell of rum and coke on BC's breath, a credit card bill, meet season, Beach's unhealed hip, a festering sinus infection, Christmas, Baby J, Ex's....? All of them together. I don't know.

Afterwards I couldn't sleep. I spent hours awake out on the sofa in a slumbering house. Listening to BC snoring. I crawled into the internet searching again for historic photos of Harvard-Yale. Looking for something more than I had.

I found a preservation blog. Someone trying to protect the neighborhood's historic charm.  Protect the tiny houses from overdevelopment. A losing battle a few years old and seemingly now an abandoned blog drifting in a digital grave.

In a slideshow titled "Gone Forever" I found a photo of my childhood house 1856 Herbert Ave. The house my parents lived in for 30+ years. Later notes refer to it as "Herbert-Gone".

But Herbert has been gone for a long time.  A lot longer than the demolition date listed on the blog. It was gone with the death of an old dog: a lazy St. Bernard named Bandit. The death of a murky cat with crossed blue eyes. Gone with the death of a middle sister buried in the pouring July rain. 

A missing porch swing, a dripping hose among the vinca, a frosted over window with a crack in it, a cherry tree in full spring bloom... *I took these photos myself back when the "remodeling" began.

"Wait a minute," I had gasped at BC sometime before Christmas.  When the dreams about church stairs had started.  "When did my parents move? And where the fuck was I?" 

I wasn't asking what year or month I was asking under what context did they pack it all up, 30 years worth of stuff, and move without me ever seeing a single box.  Where was I?!?! Did I even stop by to say good-bye? I have no idea.

Like all black sheep I have a bad habit of disappearing from the flock. That's not entirely true, I am more a gray sheep. Visible on the horizon like desert rain. Always threatening to show up but hardly ever doing so.

I inherited the darker sheep's skin from my sister after she died. In fact, I inherited a lot of things from her- mostly questions.

Even before then I had moments likes these, 'Where was I' moments. When I find them I can see myself walking passed Beach's old room under the eves of the house on 10th carrying Emily, the rag doll my mom sewed for me when I was about 3.  She made one for each of us girls. I passed Emily on to Alex, then to Beach. Now Emily lives in a box under my bed. One day she will become Baby J's.

In the weeks & months after Wendi died as I slowly slipped into madness I would pick things up and carry them from room to room trying to make sense of it. I did it for hours, for days, for months, until time stopped existing. Until I had scrambled up my whole life. Rearranged reality one piece at a time.  It took years to undo. 

But that image of me carrying Emily from my room back to Beach's has come to symbolize the years of destruction that led into and the years of depression that followed Wendi's death.

All the missing pieces of my mind within the black hole feeding on the 'where was I?' moments.

These days I cart Baby J back and forth to gymnastics and I wonder what goes on in her mind. What she will remember of me. Of this time together. I remember my grandmother. Her ice-cream hands and marionette smile. Will Baby J's memories go this far back, as mine do? Will the spaces and places we go fuse into her memory or will they fade and disappear?

In 1994 there was a hostage situation in the downtown library.  It was a month after my second child was born- Conner, Baby J's dad. The hostage situation was unrelated to its closing. Unrelated to it sitting empty and a new bigger, better library sprouting up beside it.

But in my mind it makes sense that it would end like that. That the Deseret Gym would tumble down behind me. That the Library would be violated then fall forever silent. And the house of my childhood would be buried along with my sister.

Childhood done, the curtains of time laid down over the landscape. Memories crawling out like ants. Scattering into tiny space between wake and sleep. Climbing up and down ghost stairs in the back of a church stage looking for crumbs. 

The Leonardo has taken up residence in the shell of the old Library. It pretends to fill the hole left behind with a mirage of fullness.

But I remember being a kid there among the quiet shelves. The grandness of its hollow middle. A pair of blade like metal escalators rising together from the ground floor stacks like chariots rising to heaven. 

I remember more than one would expect me to. The mind of a story teller. The eyes of a child. But I get the feeling there is something else left behind.  Something I have lost. Something I was supposed to know. Some bit of information she forgot to remind me to remember.

Friday, December 22, 2017

merry and bright

The annual trip to the top of the SLC Avenues to see the best light display in the city.
Goodie bags for 3 Little Giants and a surprise for Sophie.
Her Christmas gift from us- a longboard! 

 I think it was safe to say she LOVED it.

 Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

let meet season begin

now reading: Spirit Animals books 6 and 7

I don't tend to write book reviews BUT I feel like this Spirit Animal series (books 1-7) needs a little disclaimer. We found them because of the first book in the series tie to Brandon Mull. We knew nothing about them when we borrowed the audio book from our library.

The story is gripping and the writing is good. The main characters are charming. BUT I would say the overwhelming feel of the series is misery and loss.

These books have the surface qualities of any good tween fantasy novel; normal kids and magical creatures called on a quest to find magic objects and fight the battle of good vs. evil. However, the amount of death, loss, and plot twists is almost too much. I am not telling you to pass them by I only want to warn anyone interested that they aren't as innocent as they appear. Especially if you have an animal lover!