Riding Home

Because even today, nothing soothes me like vocal harmonies.

RemembeRED

This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.  Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!
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Riding Home

I pressed my cheek against the glass as I stared out the window, watching silhouettes of leafless trees streak by. They were monster hands, spiky and twisted, and even though I was six – too old to still be afraid of shadows in the dark – I secretly knew they snatched at us, hoping to trap our car in their gnarled fingers. Hoping to eat us alive.

And maybe, I thought, mama and daddy knew about the tree monsters too. Maybe that was why daddy’s knuckles turned white gripping the steering wheel; why mama’s foot tapped the floorboard.

I squeezed my eyes shut. The heater filled the space with the scent of warmth in the winter – the comfortable and safe smell that always welcomed me inside from the cold like my mama’s arms. I breathed it in, wanting to get as close to the heat as possible. I slipped off my shoes and put my feet on the vent in the console, wiggling my toes against the slats. I sighed, and melted further down into the back seat.

Mama and daddy were quiet now, their furious whispers hushed when they remembered I was there, but the weight of things unsaid still hung thick in the air – an almost tangible presence; a silence that was heavy with the sounds of the heater and each passing car.

They forgot about me sometimes, but I didn’t really mind. If I was very quiet, I could almost disappear. I paid attention. I knew things they didn’t think I knew.

Daddy was angry. So was mama. We felt broken.

We turned, and my head bounced against the door. I opened my eyes and looked up, this time seeing over the trees. Millions of tiny stars dotted the sky; constellations of lights painting pictures against the black night. I stretched to see more.

Ursa major. Ursa minor. Draco. Orion. I turned the words my granddaddy taught me over, tumbling them like stones until the ideas became smooth and familiar. His voice in my head saying, “Now lookie here, Katydid. See how those stars make a dragon?” He would point, tracing invisible lines in the sky.

I put my finger to the window, cold from the outside air, and tried to trace the same lines between the stars like a connect-the-dots puzzle. Big bear. Little bear. Dragon. Hunter. I smiled as I found the shapes.

The car rolled to a stop and a red light shone in the window. Daddy sighed and said a bad word. It popped the silence like a pin to a balloon.

You shouldn’t say that, I thought. It’s a sin to say bad words.

But I didn’t say anything. Instead, I started to sing, softly at first as I tested my voice in the heavy air. The hymn pushed through my lips, wanting to come out.

…I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed…

At the first line of the chorus, mama started singing too. But her notes were different from mine.

“Don’t sing what I’m singing,” She said. “Listen to yourself and sing. Try it again.”

I started singing again. This time, at the chorus, daddy sang too, his deep voice below mine. I closed my eyes and tried with all my might to hear myself.

When we came to the last note of the song, the harmony filled the car pushing out every last bit of the thick silence.

“Sing something else,” Mama told me.

So I did, wriggling to the middle of my seat and leaning forward between my parents into the music that we created – just our voices and the hum of the heater.

They sent me to bed when we got home. Their muffled argument seeped in under the bedroom door. Outside my window was my own tree monster – the one that knocked the house at night trying to get in. But that night when I closed my eyes and listened very hard, I could still hear the harmony we made. It filled me, as it had filled the car, and wrapped me snugly in a six-year-old’s certainty that nothing broken could sound so good.

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Thanks for reading! Concrit welcome and appreciated!

*Bobs

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16 Comments

  1. Galit Breen said,

    April 5, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Oh my goodness! Was this ever gorgeous! There were so many parts that drew me in, made me feel. It was heart breaking, thought provoking and rich with beautiful wording.

    This part sticks with me: “I put my finger to the window, cold from the outside air, and tried to trace the same lines between the stars like a connect-the-dots puzzle. Big bear. Little bear. Dragon. Hunter. I smiled as I found the shapes.”

    But really, it is just one of many parts. I really loved this!

  2. Erin said,

    April 5, 2011 at 6:36 am

    My son hates to drive through the trees, says it scares him. Now I see so perfectly why.

    And the sound of something broken couldn’t have be written any better. I love “If I was very quiet, I could disappear” I still have days where I feel like that….or I hope it could be like that!

  3. Frelle said,

    April 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Wow.

    These were my favorite lines:
    And maybe, I thought, mama and daddy knew about the tree monsters too.
    Daddy sighed and said a bad word. It popped the silence like a pin to a balloon.
    leaning forward between my parents into the music that we created – just our voices and the hum of the heater.

    My heart aches reading this. I’m in the midst of a rough time and hope that my children find comfort somewhere that is as tangible as this. I’m a vacalist, and I can imagine having this sort of feeling about harmony if I had ever sung with my parents.

    What a bittersweet memory to write about. Thank you for pouring your heart out here.

  4. varunner said,

    April 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    What a memory! You really put the reader in the child’s shoes – the monster trees, the argument, all of it!

  5. April 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    This piece made me ache and shook me to my core. I swear I was there with you. Frightened by the trees, wanting to disappear….beautifully written.

  6. Amy said,

    April 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Wonderfully written. I was right there with you tracing my finger on the window. So beautiful and so sad.

  7. April 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    They forgot about me sometimes, but I didn’t really mind. If I was very quiet, I could almost disappear. I paid attention. I knew things they didn’t think I knew.

    I could’ve cried at THAT paragraph. Children are ever vigilant, knowing and seeing all. You captured this so well and also the fear. The fear a child feels but not able to express it, so finds comfort in memories, stars, singing…

    Beautifully written.

  8. Tina said,

    April 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    “They were monster hands, spiky and twisted, and even though I was six – too old to still be afraid of shadows in the dark – I secretly knew they snatched at us, hoping to trap our car in their gnarled fingers. Hoping to eat us alive.”

    Perfect establishment of the tension running throughout the piece! Your descriptions of the world from the POV of a six year old were wonderful. Beautiful writing!

  9. April 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    There was so much to like about this piece. One of the many things that stood out was, “Their muffled argument seeped in under the bedroom door. Outside my window was my own tree monster – the one that knocked the house at night trying to get in.”

    I loved that idea that you had adopted this one monster, that perhaps he wasn’t as scary as the others since he had yet to actually get in the house, unlike the unhappiness of your parents at this time.

  10. Leighann said,

    April 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    You present a 6 year old perception so well. Everything is written to perfection.
    “It popped the silence like a pin to a balloon.” is such a simple line but says so much.
    Your last line?
    Breathtaking.

  11. April 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    This is so hauntingly beautiful. I know the smell of warmth you talk about – I can almost taste it right now through your words.

  12. andygirl said,

    April 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    so lovely. there was so much wrapped in that story and your voice was spot on. I love how this story ambled and migrated just the way a child would perceive it. and when you quoted your grandfather? slain. that was so sweet.

  13. April 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

    This was my life as a little girl… this was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. Your words touched mt heart.

  14. logyexpress said,

    April 6, 2011 at 12:44 am

    This just blew me away. I want to believe in the harmony the three of you created, for that 6-year old.

  15. Kimberly said,

    April 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    This was so beautifully written and I immediately connected with this paragraph “Mama and daddy were quiet now, their furious whispers hushed when they remembered I was there, but the weight of things unsaid still hung thick in the air – an almost tangible presence; a silence that was heavy with the sounds of the heater and each passing car.”
    Brilliant. I know that “weight” of things unsaid…sometimes that can be far worse than what is said. That anxious waiting and not knowing what will happen next…

  16. Renee said,

    April 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Oh my.
    I loved the wandering thoughts. The child knowing more than the parents think.

    The constellations.

    And the singing. The harmony. That they heard you sing and joined you.

    And this: “a six-year-old’s certainty that nothing broken could sound so good.”


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