Oh, childhood. Did you have one? I am pretty sure that I did, but I don’t remember much of it. A stage light obliterated mine. What little memories I have left are completely scattered and without any sort of date stamp. I remember going to the Kentucky Derby with my great uncle and Norman Rockwell, his best friend. Maybe that didn’t happen. Maybe my great-uncle Henry wasn’t actually there with Norman Rockwell at the Kentucky Derby. I am pretty sure that I went to the Kentucky Derby because I wore a T-shirt from it everywhere. It was instantly my favorite shirt. Maybe we hung out with Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, MA instead where my uncle Henry lived. Then again, seeing as Norman Rockwell died in 1978, maybe I never met him at all.
See what I mean by unreliable? My memory is not to be trusted. Because of my unreliable memory, anything that holds tangible memories is very important to me. I have one entire bookcase in my room dedicated to tangible memories. You might look at it and only see a bunch of junk like black sand and moonstone, rocks and a small tree branch, but I see black sand and moonstone from when my friend and I went camping at Hearst castle. I see a rock I picked up in Mexico on the day of the dead some years ago. I see a tree branch from when my friend tricked me into climbing a mountain. Instead of planting a flag, I took a little piece of the summit with me. None of my junk means anything to anyone else. If burglars came into my room, they’d probably wonder why I keep such junk. Where’s the good stuff?
My father is a pack rat. He saves little cut off pieces of wood from larger projects because you never know when you might need a little piece of wood. It drives my mother crazy. She is not a pack rat. So, every once in a while, my father’s pack-rat-ism drives her to the brink, and she goes through the house and purges. She purged my childhood. She sold all of my toys at a garage sale without even telling me. I would have taken some of them.
I don’t have much of anything from my childhood, tangible or intangible. Childhood is this murky thing that I know, logically, must have happened, but I don’t have much of it. I have pieces and fragments that don’t even come close to making up a whole. My mother’s purging drives me crazy. I need that stuff. The artifacts that I do have become even more important.
I have a papier mâché lion bank in my room that has always been in my room. I don’t remember there ever being a time when his benevolent face didn’t watch over me when I slept. Even when I was homeless and didn’t have a room at all, I still had the lion. When I was evicted from my apartment and found all of my belongings on the street, it was one of the few things I took.
It’s an ugly thing and it’s definitely worse for wear. The coin slot is kind of busted, because when I was a kid, I tried to shove a whole silver dollar in there and it was only designed to hold quarters.
About ten years ago, the lion broke completely. My roommate and best friend got a new kitten who knocked it off a bookcase and shattered it. My friend felt terrible about it, because she knew that it was one of the few childhood artifacts that I still have. She tried to glue it back together, but my friend isn’t the craftiest person in the world, so there are big gaping holes now, and he’s kind of squished and crooked.
I was furious at first, but then she pulled out the results of her hard work trying to piece him back together and my heart melted. Just the fact that she had tried made me love her and the lion all the more. Now the lion has even more personality. He was reconstructed with love, and even though he’s squished, he’s still the king of all the animals. He has character.
The lion with his crooked bearing is kind of like my memory now: full of holes.