Friday, December 18, 2009

Times Remembered

“Remember : Don’t jump off the roof.”

My dad said this to me at the end of our last phone conversation. Actually, he says this every time we part and has done so for years. To my husband he says about me, “Make sure she doesn’t jump off the roof, ok?” This is his way of concluding a conversation. It’s his, “Take care” or “I’ll see you soon” or any other end of an encounter- a complimentary close, a final remark.

“Don’t jump off the roof” is also a literal warning, as in when I was a little girl, I did jump off the roof of my house on his watch, and the impression of that event has left a 30 year old blemish on my dad’s psyche that is only apparent to me, as he delivers that mantra every time he leaves a room that I’m standing in.
-
Postulate A:
Oftentimes memories are simply interpretive imprints that mark beginnings of character definitions.

Example 1: The day one gets braces on his teeth is marked as the beginning of one’s teeth being straightened, and can be defined as the moment one began to hope he might become more attractive someday. The memory of getting one’s braces removed, as follows, is the beginning of learning how to live as one who once had braces and then braces himself for one of two experiences: a.) finding out that braces indeed made people more attracted to him as evidenced by the hoards of other straight-teethed people beating down his door to be near him or b.) realizing that having braces changed nothing except, possibly, his overbite, and now he has to cope with the understanding that there is no such thing as a sure method of becoming more attractive.

Either way, the memories that act as beginnings of life-defining moments have burrowed themselves into the brain; no matter how many times or from how many places they jump, the synapses will never be the same.

So it goes with remembering.
-
“One.. two..three..No, WAIT!” A breath. “Ok. This time I’ll do it. One..two.. three..Not yet!” I was sitting at the top peak of our single story house, my legs dangling off the side. I wanted to get down, but I was forbidden to use the ladder. That was the rule. “Ginger, if I let you come with me onto the roof, you must promise that you won’t climb down the ladder by yourself.”

I promised.

My father was working on the air conditioner and didn’t have time for my wandering spirit or my wayward bladder.

My memory of that moment is very clear. I stared at the ground pretending that the passing of time was my ally – I imagined just how it must feel to jump off, to land, and to be on the ground remembering what it was like to have jumped. “It will seem like I flew down.” I put myself safely on the ground in my mind and in doing so, strengthened my resolve to go ahead and jump. I couldn’t conceive of going back, nor could I imagine asking to climb down the ladder after making such a fool-proof agreement. “Of course, I’ll mind you, Dad. No, I won’t go down the ladder. I promise.”

Clearly, this – the jumping - had to happen. I steeled myself as, for the last time, I whispered, “One… two.. three!”

I jumped.
-
Postulate B
The problem with successful beginnings is that they make a person feel invincible.

Example 2: If a person jumps off the roof of her house as a kid, lands and sits down, thinks, “Ok. That’s that,” and then goes inside the house to resume normalcy, the rest of her life is filled with that expectation – that if one imagines she can do something, isn’t breaking any solid promises, and feels confident that a little leap is worth a result, her life is filled with similar attempts. In a way, it’s like a personal dare: I dare you to kiss that boy. I dare you to go to college. I dare you to get married, to buy a house, to have a baby, to sell away your comfortable situation and start it all over again. I dare you! And after you’ve done it, imagine how relieved you’ll feel!
-
How scary it must be for one to realize how little control he can have over impressionable beginnings. Even more frightening is the realization that one had no idea, until, for example, the day that his daughter jumped off the roof, that that was the beginning of how she would interpret herself: as that girl – the one who would jump off the roof, the one who would find her way around the promises, the one who would extract herself from the uncomfortable circumstance, the one who would consider flying as the first step in the resolution to find normalcy.

This post was written for the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) As soon as I get my act together, I'll link everyone here.. :) Until then, you'll notice the others hanging out in the comments.

11 comments:

Helen McGinn said...

Ginger, I am so thrilled! Your post exceeded my high expectations of you; I know you are an amazing writer but that was a wonderful post and one that filled me with trepidation. I have a wee lass like you; she too does what she is told and takes the other, more dangerous path instead. I have to think of every situation to tell her not to do. You were that girl, were you not?

I feel for your dad and I too can imagine saying those words to you every. single. time. Poor guy.
;O)

Welcome, I'm so excited you've joined us. xx

Grannymar said...

Welcome to the Group, what a wonderful first offering.

I survived a jump or two like that, but usually with my brothers egging me on to do so. It certainly toughened me up and knocked the corners of timidity off me.

Rummuser said...

Welcome to the group Ginger, and what a way to start the proceedings! You have left nothing to imagination and you must have been something and continue to be, if your father still has to caution your husband!

gaelikaa said...

Well, you certainly jump in at the deep end, what an appetite for life! Well done, I loved reading this post!

Maria said...

Ginger,
As I read, I thought of how lovely to have a father who still warns one of falling of the roof.

I too, wore braces, jumped of the roof of shed, and had a father who loved me.

However, I jumped into a pile of raked leaves, got old leaves stuck in my braces, and later when boys begin to call, I overheard my worried father say, "Maybe the braces were not a good idea."

Conrad said...

Oh, Ginger, what a great mind. Your understanding and interpretation are scintillating.

This fills me with hope and expectation for all your future endeavors, of course! The bar is high.

Oh, wait. Loose Bloggers Consortium. You can jump off my roof if you want or sit by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate! Or both. But ... welcome aboard after a fantastic beginning!

Marianna said...

Pleased to meet you, Ginger! What a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the LBC world.

My mom had special good-byes for each of us. But, never a roof-top warning.

Will we hear more about the times you took a leap in life when the landing was or wasn't so soft?

K a b l o o e y said...

Interloper here... um... Ginger, great story well told, as per usual. I am wondering if your father started that habit right after you jumped or years later. I don't know why, except if it was later, it might have more metaphorical meaning than literal. By now the balance has certainly shifted to pure metaphor or just comfort. You could probably graph the whole transformation of his intent.

Amy said...

This is great writing. I could see you Dad still saying this to you..

Magpie 11 said...

Welcome to the group...

And thanks for reminding me of what my father was like...had it been me on the roof i wouldn't have dared to jump or use the ladder because wither way I would have been in trouble. So, I'd have wet myself and been in trouble for that, from both parents.

I rather like your dad's sense of humour...for that must be what it is...gently teasing.

msprimadonna67 said...

Beautifully written. And, by the way, I rather like that closing sentiment as shorthand for a shared experience that has imprinted on your relationship.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Times Remembered

“Remember : Don’t jump off the roof.”

My dad said this to me at the end of our last phone conversation. Actually, he says this every time we part and has done so for years. To my husband he says about me, “Make sure she doesn’t jump off the roof, ok?” This is his way of concluding a conversation. It’s his, “Take care” or “I’ll see you soon” or any other end of an encounter- a complimentary close, a final remark.

“Don’t jump off the roof” is also a literal warning, as in when I was a little girl, I did jump off the roof of my house on his watch, and the impression of that event has left a 30 year old blemish on my dad’s psyche that is only apparent to me, as he delivers that mantra every time he leaves a room that I’m standing in.
-
Postulate A:
Oftentimes memories are simply interpretive imprints that mark beginnings of character definitions.

Example 1: The day one gets braces on his teeth is marked as the beginning of one’s teeth being straightened, and can be defined as the moment one began to hope he might become more attractive someday. The memory of getting one’s braces removed, as follows, is the beginning of learning how to live as one who once had braces and then braces himself for one of two experiences: a.) finding out that braces indeed made people more attracted to him as evidenced by the hoards of other straight-teethed people beating down his door to be near him or b.) realizing that having braces changed nothing except, possibly, his overbite, and now he has to cope with the understanding that there is no such thing as a sure method of becoming more attractive.

Either way, the memories that act as beginnings of life-defining moments have burrowed themselves into the brain; no matter how many times or from how many places they jump, the synapses will never be the same.

So it goes with remembering.
-
“One.. two..three..No, WAIT!” A breath. “Ok. This time I’ll do it. One..two.. three..Not yet!” I was sitting at the top peak of our single story house, my legs dangling off the side. I wanted to get down, but I was forbidden to use the ladder. That was the rule. “Ginger, if I let you come with me onto the roof, you must promise that you won’t climb down the ladder by yourself.”

I promised.

My father was working on the air conditioner and didn’t have time for my wandering spirit or my wayward bladder.

My memory of that moment is very clear. I stared at the ground pretending that the passing of time was my ally – I imagined just how it must feel to jump off, to land, and to be on the ground remembering what it was like to have jumped. “It will seem like I flew down.” I put myself safely on the ground in my mind and in doing so, strengthened my resolve to go ahead and jump. I couldn’t conceive of going back, nor could I imagine asking to climb down the ladder after making such a fool-proof agreement. “Of course, I’ll mind you, Dad. No, I won’t go down the ladder. I promise.”

Clearly, this – the jumping - had to happen. I steeled myself as, for the last time, I whispered, “One… two.. three!”

I jumped.
-
Postulate B
The problem with successful beginnings is that they make a person feel invincible.

Example 2: If a person jumps off the roof of her house as a kid, lands and sits down, thinks, “Ok. That’s that,” and then goes inside the house to resume normalcy, the rest of her life is filled with that expectation – that if one imagines she can do something, isn’t breaking any solid promises, and feels confident that a little leap is worth a result, her life is filled with similar attempts. In a way, it’s like a personal dare: I dare you to kiss that boy. I dare you to go to college. I dare you to get married, to buy a house, to have a baby, to sell away your comfortable situation and start it all over again. I dare you! And after you’ve done it, imagine how relieved you’ll feel!
-
How scary it must be for one to realize how little control he can have over impressionable beginnings. Even more frightening is the realization that one had no idea, until, for example, the day that his daughter jumped off the roof, that that was the beginning of how she would interpret herself: as that girl – the one who would jump off the roof, the one who would find her way around the promises, the one who would extract herself from the uncomfortable circumstance, the one who would consider flying as the first step in the resolution to find normalcy.

This post was written for the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic and post responses - all of us together at the same time even though we are continents apart. (Lovely!) As soon as I get my act together, I'll link everyone here.. :) Until then, you'll notice the others hanging out in the comments.

11 comments:

Helen McGinn said...

Ginger, I am so thrilled! Your post exceeded my high expectations of you; I know you are an amazing writer but that was a wonderful post and one that filled me with trepidation. I have a wee lass like you; she too does what she is told and takes the other, more dangerous path instead. I have to think of every situation to tell her not to do. You were that girl, were you not?

I feel for your dad and I too can imagine saying those words to you every. single. time. Poor guy.
;O)

Welcome, I'm so excited you've joined us. xx

Grannymar said...

Welcome to the Group, what a wonderful first offering.

I survived a jump or two like that, but usually with my brothers egging me on to do so. It certainly toughened me up and knocked the corners of timidity off me.

Rummuser said...

Welcome to the group Ginger, and what a way to start the proceedings! You have left nothing to imagination and you must have been something and continue to be, if your father still has to caution your husband!

gaelikaa said...

Well, you certainly jump in at the deep end, what an appetite for life! Well done, I loved reading this post!

Maria said...

Ginger,
As I read, I thought of how lovely to have a father who still warns one of falling of the roof.

I too, wore braces, jumped of the roof of shed, and had a father who loved me.

However, I jumped into a pile of raked leaves, got old leaves stuck in my braces, and later when boys begin to call, I overheard my worried father say, "Maybe the braces were not a good idea."

Conrad said...

Oh, Ginger, what a great mind. Your understanding and interpretation are scintillating.

This fills me with hope and expectation for all your future endeavors, of course! The bar is high.

Oh, wait. Loose Bloggers Consortium. You can jump off my roof if you want or sit by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate! Or both. But ... welcome aboard after a fantastic beginning!

Marianna said...

Pleased to meet you, Ginger! What a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the LBC world.

My mom had special good-byes for each of us. But, never a roof-top warning.

Will we hear more about the times you took a leap in life when the landing was or wasn't so soft?

K a b l o o e y said...

Interloper here... um... Ginger, great story well told, as per usual. I am wondering if your father started that habit right after you jumped or years later. I don't know why, except if it was later, it might have more metaphorical meaning than literal. By now the balance has certainly shifted to pure metaphor or just comfort. You could probably graph the whole transformation of his intent.

Amy said...

This is great writing. I could see you Dad still saying this to you..

Magpie 11 said...

Welcome to the group...

And thanks for reminding me of what my father was like...had it been me on the roof i wouldn't have dared to jump or use the ladder because wither way I would have been in trouble. So, I'd have wet myself and been in trouble for that, from both parents.

I rather like your dad's sense of humour...for that must be what it is...gently teasing.

msprimadonna67 said...

Beautifully written. And, by the way, I rather like that closing sentiment as shorthand for a shared experience that has imprinted on your relationship.