There’s a scene in this awesome show (you should watch it, you’ll thank me later) by Hulu called Casual. The main characters stand over their father’s casket (by the way, they don’t care for him much) and the daughter complains he was not properly embalmed and now everyone will remember him this way. The son says, “he’ll be forgotten in a week.” Yesterday was the anniversary of both my wedding day (a billion years ago) and the day my father in law died (2 years ago). As it turns out–I adored my father in law. I reached out to my mother in law yesterday and said, “I’m thinking of you, and remembering what a great man he was and most excellent father in law.” and she replied, “he always loved talking to you–he said you were smart, funny, and capable.” It brought tears to my eyes to read it.
When I was a kid we moved a lot. I went to ten different school districts K through 12. And? I never went to kindergarten (I was in the hospital). People ask, “did you move a lot because of the military?” And I always nod, “yes.” But between you and me? It’s a lie–we rented and we never had any money. And at some point, we would not be able to afford the rent, and we would be evicted. The pack-up and move-outs were swift–we couldn’t take all our stuff because it was “too much” and we were usually in a hurry. We went from grocery store to grocery store looking for boxes because buying boxes was a crazy luxury. And I remember standing in the kitchen and wrapping all our dishes–something precious of my mother’s usually broke and I remember the sadness on her face when she would see it as it was unwrapped in the new place. To this day I cannot stand the feel of newspaper on my hands. We couldn’t afford to rent big UHauls either so a lot of stuff was left behind. Cars were jam-packed.
If you don’t move out when you’re supposed to, the Sheriff shows up, ultimate humiliation. It happened, gratefully, only once to us. Whenever I see people’s belongings outside an apartment building my heart goes out to them. Maybe they’re drug addict losers–or maybe they are down on their luck. Either way–it hurts me to see their things strewn across the lawn.
There are upsides to constant moving though–depending on the person you are I suppose. I developed an ability to meet new people, determine if they’re friend or foe easily, and thankfully, I was not shy. Unfortunately I became less and less shy and I learned to open my mouth (which often got me in trouble). I also learned that if you clock one person right away in school–no one messes with you the rest of the year. I did that in 5th, 6th, 8th, and 10th. (I didn’t need to in 7th because of Mike.)
There’s a song by Shawn Mendes called, Ruin. I recently heard it and it impacted me deeply. I often wonder if certain people think of me. I, honestly, feel mainly alone. He sings,
Do you think about me?
And, do ya?
Do you feel the same way, babe?
And, do ya?
Do you remember how we felt?
‘Cause I do
So listen to me, baby”
The bad thing about moving so much are all the friends I don’t remember. I think of them but they’re like shadows. I remember having friends everywhere–remember when kids played outside everyday in the street? I had friends when I visited my dad at his apartment, I had friends at every school, every neighborhood we lived in, but because we moved so frequently, I can’t remember faces or names, except for one.
There was a girl that lived in the apartment next door to my grandmother’s house in Quebec. I would peer through the hedges to see if she was outside and yell her name, “Josette, est-tu là?”. When she would reply back we’d force our way through the hedges and begin to play. We once took a city bus to the mall–I was 5 years old and she was 7. Getting to the mall was easy, but coming home was harder. We left the mall and had no idea what bus to take home. So we got on the first one we saw and sat in the very back wondering when we should get off–but nothing looked familiar so we stayed put. Eventually the bus was empty. The bus driver pulled over, walked to the back of the bus, and asked us where we lived. You can imagine the scene as the giant city bus pulled up to my grandmother’s little house. She, and two of my aunts were huddled together on the front lawn wondering where we were as we were several hours late. One summer I went to my grandmother’s and she told me that Josette had moved away and I never saw her again.
When I was recently sick, few people came to see me, or help me (including family). And when the nurse looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you need to let your children come visit you” I realized that she didn’t think I was ever going home. It was an incredibly lonely feeling. I wondered who would miss me? Even now, I wonder about people I have not heard from in years and think, “do they ever think of me?”
What made it hard was realizing that after I would die, my children would suffer, but I would basically be forgotten. I have made little impact on this world or the people around me. So much like in the first scene in Casual, friends would show up at the memorial (by the way, I am being cremated and my ashes are being taken OFF this fucking island. My friend Bev knows what to do). People would see the obligatory slideshow with all the best photos of me and my friends (ya know, even some of the ones where we are laughing to the point of tears and my makeup looks like shit–I’ll allow them when I’m dead), hugging my children, on vacation, playing softball with the guys I used to work with, doing something ridiculous (no, seriously, sometimes I do stupid things). They will eat the free food, drink the free drinks, and then go home feeling somewhat melancholy. But, by the next day life would continue as usual and I would soon be forgotten.
A few years ago I was in Quebec city. My entire extended family went out to dinner in a very fine restaurant. I arrived, a bit late, and when I walked in I saw a woman looking at me from across the room. I sat at the table with my family and we ate and laughed and suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. She said to me (in French) “are you Claudine?” and I said, “yes.” She said, “I am Josette… we used to play together.” We looked each other hard in the eyes, she smiled, I smiled, and we began to instinctively laugh. I quickly stood to hug her and I asked, “how did you recognize me? how did you know it was me?” She said, “First I saw your eyes, then I saw you laugh, and I knew it was you.”