The Smell of Her Perfume Stays Vivid in My Mind-A thought from childhood
Just a Kid...
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A little while back Ms Kimberly Gray started a thread in the forums titled, “What is your first memory”? When I first read the questions I was stumped. I couldn’t remember what my first memory was. It took about a week of thinking and trying to find an answer to this fairly easy question, when it finally came to me what my first memory was. Of course the first thing that I recall was an incident which I had gotten into trouble, which I had a tendency to do day to day.
I was 4 years old and my family and I were living in Brick Town, New Jersey. My mother was in the kitchen doing dishes while my newborn baby brother slept upstairs with my father. My older sister and I were playing in the foyer in front of the stairs, where we often played when when it was bitter cold outside. My parents usually set up the kerosene heater in the foyer so the heat could disperse throughout the house.
The stairs had always been my favorite place to play house, I was able to line all my babies up on the steps and cater to each of their demanding needs. I had just finished stripping the babies down and powdering their behinds when it occurred to my young mind that they were probably getting cold sitting there bare naked. With purpose in my step I walked to the couch in the next room, where my mother had four loads of laundry that had not yet been folded piled high, threatening to tip over and onto the floor. I sifted through the tee-shirts and jeans until I found a dish towel. It was smaller than a bath towel, but larger than the typical wash clothes that we used when we would bath. I thought that the tattered stained dish towel was the perfect choice to use to pamper my babies.
As I walked back into the foyer towards my dolls, I paused when I noticed the kerosene heater was sitting there. I felt the dish towel in my hands and brushed it up against my cheek. The fabric was cold. I thought to myself, what is the point in wrapping my shivering babies up in a blanket if it too was cold to the touch. So I did what any good mother would do and I placed the ragged old towel on top of the kerosene heater so it would have a chance to heat up. I walked back over to the stairs to explain my plan to my audience of cabbage patch kids and Sesame Street Characters, to assure them that it would be just a moment and I would make sure that they were cozy and warm.
I do not know how long I was away from the towel and preoccupied giving my speech to my babies, but it didn’t take long for that blanket (aka dish towel) to heat up and catch fire. It wasn’t a slow starting fire, and in the eyes of a four year old, that blanket pretty much burst into flames. I was stunned, and thought, ‘what happened’? As my elder sister and I stood staring at the flames, the smoke alarm siren began to ring in my ears. My Father was running down the stairs as my Mother was running from the kitchen with a dish still in her hands and her front dripping wet with sudsy water.
Sometimes I just needed to know my mother loved me
My mother scooped my sister and I up and pushed us against the wall as far away from the flames as the room would allow us to be. I am not sure how, but my father quickly extinguished the flames. As everyone caught their breathe, my sister took four or five steps back, shook her head while looking at me. Saying nothing she raised her arm and pointed in my direction with a look on her face that so obviously said-“It wasn’t me, it was her.”
I was disgusted, “That Rat”, I remember thinking.
“What a tattletale!” (I stood glaring back at her, hoping she would drop dead).
Needless to say, I knew I was in for it as my parents hovered above me, and if memory serves me correctly, it felt as if they were closing in on me.
I was asked, “What were you thinking? Why would you do something like that? You could have caught you and your sister on fire! Go to your room, I can’t even look at you right now”, my father said with anger and frustration in his voice.
I looked at my mother as my eyes filled with tears, and she just shook her head, even at four years old, I knew what it meant, she was disappointed in me and frustrated as well.
“I was only trying to”….I began to say until my father interrupted me,
“Did you not hear me-GET OUT OF HERE! GO TO YOUR ROOM- I DON’T WANT YOU AROUND ME DAMIT”,
I grabbed what naked babies I could carry and ran up the stairs tripping on myself repeatedly as I struggled to see through my watering eyes.
I was sorry; I didn’t think or know, that was going to happen. I was embarrassed and felt stupid and worthless.
“I don’t know why I do so many bad things and get into so much trouble. I don’t mean to, I am really sorry”, I repeated to myself as I sat whimpering on my bed.
I cried for about thirty minutes while gripping my red headed cabbage patch kid named Abigail, when my mother finally came up to check on me. She sat down on my Rainbow Bright Bedspread and pulled me onto her lap where she held me for a few minutes in silence. She finally broke the silence when she said to me in a calm nurturing voice,
“I love you so much, and I don’t know what I would of done if you had gotten hurt”.
She explained to me that she was frightened more so than angry at me.
She then squeezed me so hard I found it hard to breath, but I didn't care-she was always so busy-she never seemed to hold me like that anymore. I didn’t care if I was in trouble, I was going to enjoy the comfort of her embrace as long as she was willing to give it, and I wanted to savor that moment and the time she was spending with me, just me. I remember the way her perfume smelled and the comfort I felt as I sat on her lap holding her as close as I could get to her. Her voice was so sweet, not like what I usually heard which was yelling to settle down from across the house. At that moment, I was positive that my mother loved me and I wasn’t rotten, because no one could fake a hug like the one she was giving me. I knew my Mommy; the most beautiful princess in the world loved me.
Even though I was in a heap of trouble, that is not only my first memory which I am able to recall in detail, it is one of my most cherished memories. I needed that hug, I needed a lot of hugs throughout the years, because I needed the reassurance that my Mother loved me and that I wasn’t wasted space and a nuisance to her and the rest of the family. I knew, even back then, that she was busy-and I never wanted to push too hard for attention. But how sweet the moments were when she took a moment for just me.
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