November 27, 2009

Missing Pieces

What is it about childhood that sticks with you for life, and makes you wistful for the things you once had? How does this hold true even with a bad childhood, where food and stuffed animals and sticker books and twinkly lights were the only respite from the screams, tears, slamming cupboard doors and running vacuum cleaners crashing to the floor?

I have very few good memories from my childhood, besides a battery of tastes and smells from holidays, and trips with my father to the beach and the state fair. Thanksgiving never meant anything to me besides being subjected to an even more stressed-out, obsessive, compulsive mother who broke her back lifting the turkey out of the oven and then blamed us for it in the year that followed. But yesterday, despite a lovely and loving dinner with Michelle's parents, I still found myself longing for the comforts of a childhood long since past: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and those dinner rolls that come connected on a sheet, buttered before being placed in the oven, and then again afterwards while hot on your plate.

The three pies that we always used to split among the four of us - pumpkin, pecan and mince meat - never solved any of the family issues that we had, but every year my sister and I were distracted briefly by our father, sipping a hot black coffee, explaining to us why something called "meat" contained no meat at all.

I had a tiny sliver of pumpkin pie for dessert last night, topped with a delicious Italian meringue, and that should have been enough. When I returned to my apartment at night, I turned on my twinkly yellow and orange lights, and went to bed with the stuffed pig I have slept with since 1994. And although the fighting and the punishments and the blame and the resentment were gone this year, as they have been for the last 15 years, a comfort was still missing. I don't know whether I'll ever be fully consoled.

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