Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tossing and Turning

This paper was written in my comp class in fall of 08'. The assignment was to write about one place but from two different positive and one negative. I chose sleeping in my bedroom.

I am lying in my bedroom wandering towards sleep. This room is my favorite place in my house. It is very dark, cool, and quiet. The walls are painted a lovely craftsman red and the ceiling is the lightest shade of pink. The window is covered with bone colored sheers and beautiful red floral embroidered curtains. My dog pack is sleeping all around me in beds on the floor quietly snoring and sometimes dreaming. One of my cats is lying near my feet making a wonderful warm spot and another is close to my hand so that I can lazily stroke him while I drift off to sleep. The ceiling fan is turning above me providing a nice breeze and cooling the room further. The sheets are cool, soft, and clean and the chocolate colored blanket on top keeps me just the right temperature. My head and body are cradled in feathers from my pillows and featherbed. It seems like pure bliss.
I am lying in my bedroom and I think I might never go to sleep! My frustration rises more with each passing moment that I am awake. There is a sliver of sun peeking through the widow curtain and shining right on my face. The dogs are flatulent and fill the entire room with their fetid stench. Their dreaming and twitching is keeping me awake. The cats are all over the bed taking up much of the room and one of them keeps butting his head into my hand begging to be petted when all I want to do is sleep. The ceiling fan is making an unusually irksome ticking noise and its repetitious nature is driving me to the brink of insanity. My sheets keep getting balled up beneath me and cause me to toss and turn even more. There are feathers sticking up out of the feather bed and poking me in places that I can’t reach. I don’t think I will ever get to sleep.

This was a complicated exercise for me because more often than not I am an optimistic soul. I try to see the good in everything and everyone. I attempt to make the best of things and I also try not to worry about things I cannot change. Therefore the paragraph that describes my room in a positive light was much easier than the negative one. I had to remember times when sleeping didn’t seem possible and write about how I saw my room then. I also manipulated my writing by using antonyms of words found in my positive paragraph. I learned a lot about writing in this exercise. It was more difficult than any other assignment so far only because I couldn’t get past describing a place that I find so pleasant in a negative way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tennesee or Bust!

It is 1982, I am ten years old and my family and I are speeding along highway 40 through the Texas Panhandle. My family consists of my father, my stepmother Vickie, my eight year old brother John who loved to start trouble no matter the consequences, my seven year old brother Stephen who was always hungry, and my five year old sister, Debra the tattletale. We are heading for Memphis, Tennessee, to see my grandma Jeannie and Peepaw for Christmas. In 1982 there were no seatbelt laws, child seats, air bags, ipods or portable DVD players. My siblings and I are riding in the bed of my father’s brand new Ford F150 truck with a camper on the back listening to the almost deafening sound of wind rushing past us. My mind wandered to the day the Silver Ford had showed up in the driveway of our house in Sunnyvale, California. It was the first new vehicle my father ever owned and boy was he proud. It was a basic no frills factory model, with the addition of an AM/ FM radio and automatic transmission. We are sitting on a platform covered with itchy blue indoor outdoor carpet my father purchased in bulk at the local hardware store in California, which is where we started this insane trip.
My father hatched this harebrained scheme six months earlier when he bought the new Ford. The grownups took turns driving, so the only stops we had to make were bathroom breaks. Each of us had a corner of the bed to ourselves with our blankets, pillows, games, drawing paper, and books. Our family had set out early in the morning the day before, and the boredom had already set in. We had a mini early Christmas celebration before we left and we opened a few of our gifts. The rest were in the handy luggage space under our platform. I brought along my new etch-a-sketch and was already frustrated with it, since I couldn’t draw anything I wanted to because it only drew in straight lines. We had been through our Mad Libs twice, and I already decorated my corner of the truck bed with drawings of horses in every conceivable position.
I put my hand on the window of the camper and could feel how cold it was outside. The Texas badlands were rushing by, a blank landscape that contained lots of red dirt, tumbleweeds, rocks and an occasional mesquite tree, hardly interesting for a ten year old. We decided to play the alphabet game and went through the entire alphabet twice. A slug bug game was the obvious next choice, but that quickly became a game where my brothers beat the snot out of each other, and the pass through window between the bed and cab opened with a sharp snap and yelling from my father ensued.
“Knock it off or I am going to pull this car over and spank you on the side of the road in front of everyone!” he threatened. Over the Barry Manilow, I could hear strange noises from the Fuzz Buster in the cab of the Ford. My father borrowed it from a friend so he could speed without getting a ticket. I couldn’t see it because it was hidden under the dash. In 1982 they were illegal to own.
We all became quiet again staring out the windows hoping beyond all hope that we would see the sign for Oklahoma soon. At least that meant we were one state closer to our destination and had a way out of the truck bed. I thought about the summer before this trip when my father spent countless nights in our garage building the platform in the back for us to sit on. It was a wood frame that hid the wheel wells beneath it. It was covered with a generous layer of padding and the dreaded indoor outdoor carpet that probably seemed like a good idea at the time but was no fun in the summer. When we were in the back and all sweaty from the heat, the carpet shed and stick to our bare legs, which caused insane itching.
It was time to eat again. The pass-through window snapped open and I could hear the Eagles playing in the cab as Vickie yet again handed each of us a sandwich. She packed a cooler full of ham sandwiches that consisted of deli ham, a slice of American cheese, and some mayo on Wonder bread. I wondered about how long we could stay alive on these sandwiches before we perished. I also remembered that the food at grandma’s house was not going to be any better. She was a horrible cook. The last time we went to see her she made us spaghetti that had watery sauce and tasted like green peppers. She made cereal for breakfast and the only milk they had was skim. I was not at all excited about the Christmas dinner we had in store for us. I also thought about the smell at grandma’s house. It smelled of old furniture and carpets and their Pekinese dog that bit my brother in the face. All of these smells had a kind of mildew odor beneath it. John and Stephen were at it again this time with their pillows. I laughed and wanted to join in as they hit each other in the faces with the pillows, but was afraid of my father.
“You guys better stop that Dad’s gonna get mad again.” I said. They ignored me as usual and went right on hitting each other with those pillows. Suddenly it was snowing feathers!
One of the pillows had exploded and the feathers swirled in the air. I laughed harder but then realized we were slowing down. My father saw the feathers flying and was going to make good on his earlier promise of a road side beating. The truck came to a stop. My father got out and came to the back of the truck, I am sure our eyes were as big as saucers. He ordered both of my brothers out and gave them a spanking on the side of the road then made them get everything out of the back of the truck and shake the feathers off each item. Debra and I watched as the feathers went swirling away along the highway. Some of those feathers never came out; they stuck to the blue carpet. At least I had something to pick at while we were stuck in the back of the truck.
After the roadside beating, it was pretty quiet the rest of the way. While we slept, my brother Stephen kicked us with his cowboy boots he got for Christmas. My father wouldn’t let us take our shoes off because he said it slowed down the stopping time for bathroom breaks. I am sure we were deprived to some extent of liquids so as to limit the stops along the way.
We eventually made it to Grandma’s house where we ate horrible food, had skim milk with our cereal, and played in the enormous pile of leaves in the backyard. We also bonded with my Peepaw while helping him with his awesome Lionel train set that included a miniature town complete with townspeople, cars, houses, grass, trees, lights and whistles. We had so much fun I hardly noticed the mildew smell, and John managed to stay away from the Pekinese this time. My grandma baked about one hundred blueberry muffins for our trip home to replace the ham sandwiches. They were of course awful.
It is funny I remember this trip fondly, but after writing about it I really don’t see the humor in it. It was crowded, smelly, and utterly boring. However, nothing can replace the bonding with my siblings that occurred on this trip. We were able to see the house and neighborhood in which my father grew up. My grandparents moved into a townhouse in Knoxville the following year. It was nice but wasn’t the same. There was no huge pile of leaves for us to jump in, and the marvelous Lionel trains of my grandfather’s had been substantially reduced because the basement was smaller. My father passed away last year and I hardly see any of my siblings at all; we are scattered all over the country. I sure miss those days when life was simpler and we were all together for better or for worse.