This post is a part of the Daily Prompt.
I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, where the major industries were once coal mining and manufacturing steel. Before I was born, the unions and the factories had their arguments, and the world moved on from their heavy reliance on the area’s coal and steel. All that exists in the area now is the service industry. The belief that mills and mines will reopen has long since moved on to a passive anticipation that something great will happen someday though no one knows what that thing will be or what to do to make it happen.
I was five-years-old, and oblivious to the collective oppression that penetrated all the adults deep into their bones. I don’t remember much of my early childhood days, so it is surprising to me that I remember this time. I am not sure if we were living there temporarily, or if we were just on an extended visit. My parents had packed trash bags full of clothes and snuck off in the night with me when I was just two, three years prior. I am not sure what pulled them back to the place and the people they had tried to leave behind.
I went to Kindergarten, and I believe it was my first day. It must have been close to the holidays, because Santa visited our classroom. He brought with him a red sack full of childhood wonderment, holiday cheer, and boxes of chocolates. I don’t know if someone influenced me, but I remember being extremely excited that these were large, whole boxes of chocolates being handed out. Not the samplers with two or four chocolate, mind you. A whole big box full of confectionery treasures. I could not wait to get the chocolates home and share them with my uncle who was a year younger than me and not yet in Kindergarten, as well as my mother and grandmother.
I remember sitting on the steps, in my grandmother’s home. There was a small market across the street that sold Swedish Fishes that I sometimes had enough pennies to splurge on and pizzas that my mom sometimes had enough pennies to splurge on. There was a shower in the basement that smelled of must, which still gives me a nostalgic feeling that I cannot quite describe, related to the excitement of being able to shower in the wide open basement. There I was, wet, naked and alone, in the wide open basement used for storage and laundry, with a spigot that probably just hung from the pipes in the low ceiling and yet somehow I loved it. I remember those showers with a fondness that I can’t really put into words, and perhaps will never feel again. Similar musty smells and the feel of cold cement on my bare feet still bring a certain joy.
As I sat on the steps in my grandmother’s house. I told my uncle what he could expect when he started Kindergarten. I was excited to share my candies and all the wisdom I had gleaned from a day spent in Kindergarten. I don’t remember why my first day in Kindergarten came so late in the year that Santa was a timely sight. I don’t remember what brought my mom back to her family, after she had snuck away before. I don’t remember what trials and tribulations my parents were facing that pushed them to move around once more, after my dad decided to re-enlist in the Navy after having been discharged previously and vowing never to return. Most of all, I cannot even comprehend why this memory was so important to me that it has stayed with me all these years, when so many memories from my childhood have faded.
If I were too look at my life now, I could say that there I was, taking care of others as I always do, even to my detriment. I gave my candy away, and felt responsible to help my uncle understand kindergarten. My grandmother was always having troubles, and I am sure my parents were having troubles, and it has always been my responsibility to take on the burdens of others.
Why is it that when I look at my life now, all I can see are those burdens? I give so much of myself that sometimes I am not sure there will be any of me left. I stress about the commitments I have to other people and my family. I try to keep everyone else happy, and my happiness comes last. I only have time for fun after I have taken care of all of my responsibilities. I am negative toward myself, too anxious, unable to have fun, overworked, under-assertive and probably a number of other negative things I could easily come up with.
Why do I see the traits that I have now as so negative, but when I look back on my childhood I see those same traits in a much more positive light? What do I need to do to once again find the wonderment in having the entire musty basement for my shower or such passionate excitement from a box of chocolates so strong that it is worth remembering decades later? I hope we all find the answer to that.