My family has footnotes.
There’s that one great-uncle, a family favorite, who got drunk at a family reunion and told me I was even hotter than my grandmother was when she was my age. That would be his sister. His hot, hot sister.
Speaking of his sister—my grandmother, rest her soul—she married a pedophile after my real grandfather was out of the picture. I was a child who too often suffered this man’s presence. People knew things; they just chose to look away, hot grandmother included. I skipped out on her funeral this year.
Now, my real grandfather, I dig him. I dig him even though I never met him, even though there weren’t a lot of good stories floating around about him. But goddammit, he had spunk enough to have a couple families in separate cities, and more chicks on top of that. If things weren’t exciting, he moved on instead of becoming reticent, and there’s something I respect about that. He chose adventure over misery, but he hurt people in his path.
My dad never got past grade eight, but he’s one of the smartest guys I know. Something fell on his head when he was a teenager, and after that he became psychic or something. Music was more fun than school, and it paid better, too. So he wrote songs and played guitar and made money at it. He never imagined doing anything else. So what if he’s on his sixth wife (and second Judy), I adore the man for being one of the rare souls who lived his dream. He eats a handful of dry-roasted salted Planters peanuts every morning with a pot of strong black coffee. He rolls his own cigarettes, reeks of unfiltered smoke, and swears he doesn’t inhale.
After the divorce, my mother raised three kids on $17,000 a year in the late eighties. I ate a lot of canned SpaghettiOs. She was a phlebotomist for years, but I unwittingly told my friends she was a lobotomist. She once worked in a hospital with Naomi Judd. Every day when she picked me up from preschool, she’d ask me what I had for lunch, and I’d say, “Horse heads.” I thought that was hilarious. She always laughed.
One summer my mother drove me to 544 Castle Drive in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so I could nab a blade of grass from the yard of the duplex where the MacDonald family had been murdered on February 17th, 1970. I was obsessed with the Fatal Vision murders, and begged her to take me. She did.
I guess I was kind of a serious and creepy little kid.
My son will footnote me in all kinds of ways, I’m sure. I am prepared. I’d be more worried if there were no oddities to jog his memory, to take him back to here: 34-year-old me and 3-year-old him. Singing Steely Dan songs with him and dancing to the Climax Blues Band. Me whipping up some cream to put over strawberries moments after I snapped at him for not eating the linguine I’d made for dinner. Me going ballistic when yet another speeding douchebag crashed into our mailbox. My unflinching crush on Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. Evening hot toddies in winter. Always tapping out something on the MacBook. Restorative yoga in the middle of the living room. My hissing Alanis Morissette vocals at a Rock Band competition. Kissing the wooden urn of our dead pug before bed. Doling out a Flintstones vitamin in the morning. Walking barefoot out to the garden to pick basil. Scrubbing dog shit off his tiny shoes. Catching spiders and flinging them outside. Crushing cicada exoskeletons. Flushing out my nostrils with a neti pot. This is me, to him. I think. I am monitored daily, sized up, assessed, remembered. It’s happening, folks. My kid is taking notes.
The family in Jekwu Anyaegbuna’s “White Bats” possesses some lethal secrets, and the secrets and resulting misdeeds have layers. The layers enrich the story in a classic fable-style of storytelling that I admire. A mother’s favoritism of one daughter over others is curious, but what makes the concept interesting in a text is why the unfairness exists. Anyaegbuna’s adept way of unveiling the why is captivating, and the action flows smoothly—a free-flowing river of story that whooshes and swirls and invigorates.
“Nathan, Natalie” by Gary Moshimer is a treasure. We’ve featured Moshimer’s poetry before, but I have a special affinity for his prose. This story, though—the way Moshimer illustrates how the pieces of a family first came together, even as they fall apart—eclipsed my expectations when I saw his name in the submissions queue. This story embedded itself in me because the characters are so subtly emotive, not bleeding with feeling, but rather pulsing under the skin, ready to bruise or blow. Moshimer makes his characters shine with sympathetic qualities, no matter their circumstances or quirks, and in doing this, creates enormous tension for a reader. All of them, of course, are worthy of coming out fulfilled, but the author is a realist: some arms, hearts, hands, will exit the narrative fuller than others.
Read and reread “Adolescence.” It’s a tiny poem with a punch, and its power passed me up on the first, second, and third reads. Then, like a thunderclap, it jolted me. Serena Wilcox has chiseled a weapon of a poem. It’s poetry that boldly states: this happened. It marks the unmarked and doesn’t tolerate secrets.
And, of course, there really are no secrets. We humans are sly, and we know when there’s a piece missing. We feel things in our guts.
My son is a master of this. If he can find the last Raisinette in a 2000-square-foot house, there’s no way he won’t discover that I bawled for weeks when I found out he was a boy. Maybe when he’s older, when the beer is flowing and the autumn air feels perfect for a long hike together, maybe I will share with him my deepest things, my darkest. And my own personal footnotes, the ones he will write and read and remember, will multiply, and perhaps prove useful as a guide, a cross-reference, a way to understand. Maybe he’ll be proud of the backstory that brought me to him. Maybe he’ll think I’m a raving lunatic. Or he’ll figure out that he’s creating the layers of his own life, adding to the years of family choices that are a part of him.
Maybe he’ll realize there’s a lot to know about everyone, that stories will ooze from them if prodded only a little. If that’s the best thing he learns from my footnotes, I’ll be a proud raving lunatic.
Photo source: Yogini Annie Blog