Dreams of a Memoir

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I do not recommend reading a book on writing memoir right before you go to bed. I did it last night, and it was a mistake.

I didn’t even read that much; just a few pages, and then I was like, nah, dude, I’ll read this novel that I also downloaded when I finished Everything We Keep the other night. So I read that for a little while, and it was fine. I got sleepy, I put the Kindle down, I closed my eyes, and next thing I knew, it was five hours later and I had to pee and I had been having some pretty messed up dreams.

I’m pretty sure that every single bad decision I made in my late teens and early twenties came back to haunt me in my sleep last night. And I didn’t just dream what happened; oh no, my good ole brain had to go and make everything a thousand times worse.

Brain: you had an amicable breakup in the middle of dinner at a restaurant then finished eating together and went home separately? Not anymore! Now you’re screaming and naked and fighting for the entertainment of thirty thousand people!

Yeah. That kind of thing.

I woke up feeling the deepest darkest feelings of failure that I’ve ever felt when I’m not in the midst of a bout of depression. Miserable. Like everything I’d done was wrong.

I slept a little bit more and then I was okay for the most part, albeit still haunted by the sensations those dreams had left me.

And then it went away, as dreams and their effects so often do.

It’s funny now because I fell down an internet rabbit-hole this afternoon and ended up reading about James Frey and A Million Little Pieces. I’d somehow missed that story before.


Long Lost Last Names

The worst thing about Facebook is that you have to know someone’s name to find them. I’d love to look up so many people from my childhood, but I only remember a first name, if anything. and since I’m a girl, most of my childhood friends were girls, so even if I remembered their last names, they’d probably have changed a couple times by now.

I didn’t go to a school with a yearbook until sixth grade. I got that one, and all of them afterwards, but that still leaves six years of schooling and friends and neighbors that I can’t account for.

When I was three and four, and again when I was six through eight, we lived on a country road that, as far as I know, didn’t have a real name, just Route 2. I should ask my parents; my father still owned the land we’d lived on for several years after we moved away.

The first friend I remember was Aaron, a much older boy who lived across the street. I actually do remember his last name, because my mother said it often enough when talking about his mother, her friend. But there’s no finding him on Facebook. Too common a name.

Then there was Dionne. She lived down the street. I don’t know how we got so lucky as to be the only two girls for miles and the same age, but we did. I couldn’t even guess her last name.

And there was Amber from Girl Scouts. She had blonde hair and she was taller than I was when we were six. I didn’t make it past Brownie, so I’m not sure how long she was a Scout.file000250926781

I can’t find them to reconnect after thirty years. And it seems crazy to me that people younger than I am can find friends they had when they were six years old. It brings back the feelings of being an outsider that I had in high school, when everyone else had known each other since kindergarten, and there I was starting towards the end of tenth grade.

But at least I’m friends with most of them.

And I did find my friend Sara Johnson. Do you know how many Sara Johnsons there are on Facebook? A lot. Fortunately her parents still had the same phone number that they did in 1987.


Hair Ties and Mount Rushmore

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When I was in the fourth grade, I participated in a social studies fair for the first and only time. Mostly, the schools I attended after that didn’t have them, but looking back, I think at least a bit of the reason was how that project turned out. Also, science is more fun.

My two friends and I teamed up for a project on Mount Rushmore. They were school friends, girls to whose homes I never went, and never visitors to mine. As cynical as I’ve become as an adult, I have to wonder if we were really friends or if I was an easy A for them. Nine-year-olds are certainly that savvy, but were they? I’ll never know. I don’t even remember their names now; I just have a picture in my head of the little black girl with pigtails and the little white girl with pigtails–apparently pigtails were all the rage in my fourth grade class.

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And I’ve just wasted a solid ten minutes googling what the hair ties with the plastic balls are called, because those were definitely all the rage in my fourth grade class. Without coming to a consensus. Bobbles? Bubbles? Ball hair ties? No idea.

But back to Mount Rushmore.

We spent a bit of time in the school library gathering books on Mount Rushmore, looking for pictures, that sort of thing. And then I went home and wrote the report.

They didn’t read much of anything. Or draw much of anything. Or even use that much white glue on our posterboard. In the end, it was my social studies project, not ours.

Of course we got busted, and I’m certain I was orders of magnitude more embarrassed than they were, being the shy little teacher’s pet that I was. There was our project, standing on a desk, and the judges came around. One of them asked my friend a question and she stuttered a bit before I took over with the answer. He asked my other friend a different question, and she stuttered a bit before I tried to answer, but he cut me off, and the judges moved on to the next project.

We didn’t win, or even place.

Afterwards, my teacher pulled me aside after class and spoke to me about letting others take credit for my hard work. Holy cow, but I was naive then. Then? What am I saying? I didn’t grow out of that until my mid-thirties. My husband has pointed out to me times when my supervisors have taken credit for things that I’ve done or ideas that I’ve implemented. And now I just don’t care who gets credit for what, because it’s not like I’m going to get a raise either way, but no one else is getting a raise either.

But thank you, Mrs. Huard, for trying to teach me that one person doing all the work in a group is not teamwork, no matter how much that one person enjoys it. No matter how much easier it is for that one person to just do it herself. Thank you for trying to tell me that you thought my friends were taking advantage of me. Most of all, thank you for giving us all an A on the project in spite of all this.

And Mrs. Huard? You’d be proud of how much my handwriting has improved since the fourth grade. But I don’t write in cursive too often anymore.


Suggestion Box

What do you like to read here, dear readers?

I feel like I’ve been slacking lately, but life’s been getting in the way. I’ve been copping out–at least twice last week. 

So give me some direction. 

Fiction? Nonfiction? Humor? Memoir? Essay? 

What do you want to see more of?

I’ll let you in on a secret, though: tomorrow will be fiction. 

  


Little Lost Lambs

Today I saw two lost children, an unusually high number. It doubles my total. 

The first was a girl, about ten. She slowly exited the shoe store behind me, alone. She looked left and right, back and forth. No sense of urgency quickened her movements. 

She chose to begin her search to the right. A few minutes later she passed back by, hand in hand with a security guard, still nonchalant. 

They stopped at Best Buy and talked to an employee for a moment. It wasn’t long before a woman I assumed to be her mother arrived, walking purposefully and talking on her cellphone. She was noticeably irritated, but showed restraint until the security guard gave the girl a quick hug and went about her business elsewhere in the mall. 

Once the uniformed authority figure was out of sight, however, the mother began to loudly berate her daughter, phone still at her face, clutching her child’s arm with fingers curved into painful claws, dragging the girl along behind her. 

I saw no fear in the girl’s eyes, only resignation. 

I recognized myself in those eyes. 

The second was a boy, about seven years old. I saw him walking slowly by himself, and I hadn’t seen anyone with
whom he should have been in the last few clumps of consumers. As he neared, I watched his eyes widen and his panic rise.

When he was close enough, I asked him kindly if he was lost, already knowing the answer. He flinched and darted away like a feral cat. I let him go. 

I looked around for his parents or security, but saw neither. I fixed his description in my mind for security or police, whoever I saw first, but his mother beat them both.

She clutched her blouse tightly over her breastbone, her eyes brimming with tears, and she moved as quickly as possible without breaking into a run. 

I caught her and asked if she was looking for a boy in a yellow striped shirt. Her shaking voice said the words along with me, so I pointed her in the right direction and saw them embrace fifty feet from me. 

I witnessed no screaming, only mutual joy at their reunion. 

And I recognized my siblings. 


Reading the Classifieds

I trained elsewhere, besides healthcare.

I was briefly a vacuum cleaner salesman. Perhaps I should say that I was briefly a vacuum cleaner demonstrator–I didn’t sell any of the two thousand dollar monstrosities.

I don’t remember what they were called, but people always asked if they were Rainbow. They were not. We were supposed to say that ours were better. I didn’t care; I wasn’t familiar with Rainbow vacuums.

How did I find this marvelous job, you may ask. Well, boys and girls, listen closely, and you may very well learn something.

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Once upon a time, there were things called newspapers. They were made of paper and ink, and they were delivered every day. When you touched them too much, the ink would rub off and turn your fingers black. Kind of like when you eat a whole bag of Cheetos while binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. See kids, history has parallels today!

Anyway, in the newspaper was a section called classifieds. when you needed a job, you would get a copy of the newspaper and sit down with it at your dining room table, highlighter and pen in hand.

If you didn’t have a table, you unfolded the paper on top of your steering wheel because obviously you lived in your car, but that’s another story.

You’d peruse the job listings, which were kind of like Craigslist, only briefer, because anyone placing an ad had to pay per word. The highlighter was for circling the jobs you were interested in, and a pen was for crossing out the jobs you had absolutely no chance of landing.

Once all the winners were picked, you’d grab the phone and start calling. The most mysterious ads, the ones that said something like 20 people needed right away! Earn up to $1,000/week! were mostly a waste of time. Anything that precedes your compensation with up to meant commission, usually on overpriced ripoffs that were next to impossible to sell.

I called the number listed on a mystery ad three times.

The first time I was given an appointment time for a presentation. When I showed up, there were probably thirty of us seated in what appeared to bed a hastily-rented office space–pay attention, that’s a trend.

We sat in folding chairs and watched a twenty minute video featuring smiling beautiful people who shouted the joys of a flexible schedule and making as much money as you wanted.

After the video, the–hm, facilitator? yes.–facilitator announced that we would now interview in groups of three.

I was in the first group of suckers–I mean applicants–to be interviewed. It wasn’t really an interview; it was more of a live re-enactment of the video.

Do you like to make money? The other two girls nodded eagerly.

Do you want to set your own hours? Oh, yes!

Do you want to be your own boss? Again the nodding, accompanied by a chorus of yeses.

Through all this, I sat quietly. When he singled me out to ask what I thought about the job, I replied that I didn’t have enough information to form an opinion either way. He seemed taken aback, but apparently that was the right answer, because I got a call back the next day. I turned down the job offer because he still wouldn’t give me any useful information about the position.

The second mystery ad I answered led to the vacuum sales job. When I showed up for that interview, I considered simply walking away, although only for a split second. I had moved back home, and I needed a job to get my mother off my back.

The stained, ratty carpet and missing ceiling tiles were immediately reminiscent of that time I watched the video of beautiful people beat around the bush. I stayed anyway.

It turned out to be not so much of an interview as a meeting to tell me when my training would take place. By being one of two responders to the ad, I’d already gotten the job. I agreed to return at the set date and time.

When I did, I was given a lovely prepared sales spiel to memorize, and then I was shown the demonstration that I would be performing.

Too bad it wasn’t a steam cleaner. That carpet was disgusting in there.

I practiced the demonstration until my performance was approved, then went home with my demo unit. I did demos for my family and my mom’s office nurse, but fortunately, the hospital’s CEO canceled  her demo, because by then I’d had my fill of vacuuming for fun, without the profit.

A few years later I was looking for a second job to supplement my income, and I answered my third mystery ad. I just couldn’t help myself, I guess.

This one turned out to be telemarketing, but the office was just as unkempt as the other two I’d visited. I got the job, was given a script, and set free at my desk to sell magazine subscriptions.

This operation was so shady and cheap, we didn’t even have headsets. We didn’t even have to little piece you stick on a handset to rest the phone more comfortably between your shoulder and your ear.

We also did not have computers. Take a moment to digest that. Take all the time you need.

At least we had touchtone phones.

What else we had was a paper list of phone numbers, and a bell. When you got a sale, you rang the bell. First sale of the day and most sales of the day got you a bonus: a shiny new half dollar.

Yes.

I am dead serious about this bonus system.

Oh, did I mention that we didn’t call people at home? We called them at work to sell them magazines to get at home.

I worked there four whole days and sold one subscription.

But I did learn why I got the job. It was my phone etiquette. Anyone who called who said anything other than hello, I’m calling about the ad in the paper was told that the position had been filled.

I would have loved that job. She did nothing but set up interviews and turn people down. She didn’t even do that interviews–only scheduled them for the manager.

Times have changed, but I guess not all that much. I found my current job through Facebook, and my husband’s came from Craigslist, as did the other job that I recently left after five years.