On through golden wheat fields of Kansas we go. Many people we’ve talked to abhorred the drive through those flat middle states, but because I’d spent most of my life in the flatness of Florida, I appreciate the perfectly connected puzzle-pieced vistas of farmland going on forever. Camping spots are scarce, but on the Colorado border a shimmering oasis appears in the distance. Alone in the middle of these great plains stands a manmade reservoir surrounded by trees so lofty and isolated they look artificial. A plain’s wind is blowing as we pick our campsite. I start cursing “Oh shit!” and Ray “Goddamnit!” as everything loose flies in all directions. If only we’d known that we had it good. When the winds recede the flies descend. We race through a dinner of rubbery pancakes and put away all the food to deter the bugs. The kids let off steam at the playground with some other camp children and are soon covered with mud after a quick game of baseball in a recently irrigated field. We’re all getting used to being dirty.
The sky darkens, giving us respite from the bugs. The children fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Peace reigns. I look to the stars flashing everywhere, take a deep breath and reminisce. Days are pretty hectic and not always fun as the children become more aware of their restricted quarters in the van. Although they can’t get along without each other, they can’t get along with each other either. When they grow bored antagonizing each other they start on the dog. Luckily our dachsund Kobi is a tough little dude and starts growling, raising his lip and showing his teeth when he’s had enough. The vision of my life as a hippie is very different than this reality.
With a good night’s sleep, the morning brings a sunnier attitude. We’re heading into the Colorado mountains towards Independence Pass.
Children’s Diary – Eldorado Springs – July 6
We drove way up in the mts. and we saw snow. It was called Independence Pass.
Having got bogged down on my blog again, I start reflecting on why it’s been so hard to sit down and write this memoir. A light bulb goes off. It’s not just mine, it’s my son’s. Where’s his side of the story? I dash off an email to him.
“Dear Ray, As I struggle along with my/your memoir I realize I’m missing the most important part. You. Your memories. I have an idea. How about writing sections from your point of view and perspective. Some are already written. We could combine, read and critique each other.
I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, written in 3rd person to be less personal, more honest? You should read it. Made me think of this idea when he told how he was bullied in school and never told his parents. Sound familiar? He says, “when he’d become a writer his gossip mother said “I’m going to stop telling you things because you put them in your books and then I get in trouble.” But she couldn’t stop telling anymore than he could stop writing. Love you, Mom”
Rushdie’s sent away from home – India – to an English boarding school. Thrown into a new school and uprooted from his family and culture in Bombay, he’s not only an immigrant, but he’s not interested in sports and is a geek before his time. He never mentions the pain to his parents. It would just cause more trouble. He just swallows it.
I get a reply:
You have good timing, was going to email you soon. Love your idea about a collaboration. I’ve written some tidbits whenever I reflected upon my past, mostly parts that needed to be healed. I’ll share what I have below, but take note it’s just reflecting and healing on past hurts, the majority of my life was a lot of joy. :)”
So here is the first installation from my son Scooter, now called Ray:
First grade was where it really all started, an accordion of events unfolding one after the other in compressed time.
It was the first time I would be mainstreamed into school as a deaf child. Thinking back on it, it was a hell of an adjustment because in pre-school and kindergarten, I was in a school specially for the oral deaf to teach us how to talk and read lips rather than sign language. It was a sheltered environment where everyone was accepted for who they were in the most natural way and it was also a great deal of fun.
I remember in the middle of the year we all put on a circus to friends and family where we’d dress up as different animals and pretend to be like them. I was an elephant walking a tight rope and we still have a video reel of that somewhere. As children we love circuses and when we think of them we feel joy and happiness. That’s what school felt like; a fun circus where I was learning a lot and having fun amongst fellow deaf children and caring, compassionate staff.
Then first grade came along. Not only was I plucked out of a sheltered environment; I was plunked into a foreign one when we moved from Florida to Colorado. So here I was, totally green, totally new, and totally deaf in a brave new hearing world for the first time in my short life.
I was naive at first (then again, aren’t we all allowed to be at that age?) and welcomed the change with open arms — I loved adventure and trying new things.
I knew something was up and different when I strolled through the cafeteria for the first time to get in line and all these kids stared at me. In reality, I couldn’t blame them for that — back then I had to wear these huge body hearing aids. It was like wearing a novel strapped to the front of my chest with wires coming out of it to my ears. It was a hell of a way to broadcast my handicap. I knew I was different, but I still clearly remember that feeling of uneasiness as I walked through and seeing all those eyes following me, with that look of “What’s wrong with him?” I felt like a circus freak who made the mistake of escaping from the circus I so loved.
I remember feeling very quiet inside and wanting to shrivel up so I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. But I had to keep walking through all those stares, what else could I do?