Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Father Walking, and Twenty-four Other Things

From clutching a pencil in grade school and beyond, I developed a callous on the middle finger of my right hand. It’s still there, to the left and just below the nail, despite the fact that I’ve been typing almost exclusively for years.

When I was small, my father found a clump of white asparagus growing in the vineyard. He dug it out and planted it by our house well. It fed us faithfully each spring.

I remember my father
walking on the hard dirt avenue
at the end of the vineyard
rows behind our

the cuffs turned up
on his jeans, the dust and sticks
and weeds, his impatient
stride, having to run
to stay beside

that hot July when I was four
and he was thirty-seven,

but I don’t recall our destination,
or what he did when we
arrived, what I said,

or his reply.

Once, on a hot summer evening, I aimed a BB gun at our old wooden basketball goal and fired. The shot bounced back and hit me in the forehead. I fished it out of the dust and put it in my pocket. I don’t remember what I did after that.

When I was about ten, I took nine snails from the irrigation ditch that ran alongside the east end of our farm and put them in the aquarium on top of my chest of drawers. A few weeks later, the aquarium was teeming with snails.

My first car was a bicycle. My first bicycle was a scooter. My first scooter was a tricycle. My first bus ride was in a dusty red wagon.

One night, my mother’s Aunt Mildred took out her teeth and showed them to me.

In the kitchen during a family get-together, with my mother looking on, I ate a piece of uncooked marinated lamb intended for shish kebab. It tasted good and I didn’t feel ill at all, but I never did it again.

We grew all of our tomatoes back then, and bought all of our onions and parsley.

Same as now, there were stars in those days that had no need of names.

If I were a lizard on a woodpile, I would still be able to write, but I would do it differently.

If I were a pumpkin on a vine, I would want to face east so I could watch the sun rise.

If I were a faithful old hound, my name would be Bill.

Late one night, driving home with some friends from the mountains, I pulled off the road, stopped the car, and told everyone to get out and look at the stars. They did, in amazed silence. I wonder if they remember that now.

I still feel thrilled when I find a marble.

Back in his heyday, Willie Mays lived near my cousin’s house in San Francisco. We rang his doorbell. No one answered.

My father used to chase them when he was a kid, but I myself have never seen a roadrunner.

The first thing I smoked was a nickel cigar.

To this day, I feel funny referring to myself as a man. A man was always someone older, someone responsible. My father and grandfather were men. I am still a boy.

I cannot blow my nose using my right hand. It has to be the left.

I always tie my left shoe first.

I kick with my left foot.

The first poem I remember reading is “O Captain! My Captain!”

When I first started piano lessons, I used to sing with every note. The teacher told my mother I had perfect pitch.

There are some things that I will never write about. That, too, is how you will know me.

Notes: This entry was written at the suggestion of Cassie, a good friend and the very first follower of this blog. The poem “I Remember My Father Walking” was written April 3, 2007, and is part of my Songs and Letters. “My Father Walking, and Twenty-four Other Things” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: have library, will travel.


Janice said...

William I love your memories and your thoughts, your poems and your drawings. You are a lucky "man" because this is what you have become. Even when we are considered "grown-up", our memories help keep that "inner child" in each of us alive and well and you will always be your mother and father's little boy. My mom always told me that no matter how old I would get that I would always be her little girl :)

Transcend Designs said...

That was genius...



Anthony Duce said...

The words were great, a good way to relive moments of a life still being lived. I do the same thing sometimes in my head. I glad you write down. Thanks

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

William I have read (and translate heheheh) your write, with a pleasure that you can not imagine.
The atmosphere you describe remaind me an my childhood, these memories are the most beautifull things in life, and are the things that forge our personality as a blacksmith forging iron...
nature, family, animals, are always things related to great feeling...

thank you William because you can so good with yours words, wake up our memories

PS: I'm sure that yours friends remember very good the time spend to contemplate the star in the sky...

William Michaelian said...

And so it should be, Janice. I see it happening all over again with our own kids. Although, sometimes, I can tell they’re humoring me....

Thanks, Transcend. Genius, if very loosely defined...

Anthony, thank you. The hard part was stopping at twenty-five. Remember one thing, and several others pop up beside it.

I hope they remember, Laura. And if they don’t, I hope they’re looking now. Really, I’m honored that you would take so much time with this entry. And you’re right, the simple things endure, and that’s what we hold in common.

Alberto Oliver said...

What a lovely way to talk about memories, everyday memories, that may look simple but that embraces a lot of meaning, all the meaning. Either if your friends remind of that moment, well, who cares?? as long as such an instant endure within you, who are able to bring its magic back to life with your words.

-K- said...

I was mesmerized. Truly.

vazambam said...


Take just a moment
to relive

your memories, they will keep
living forever.

Thanks, William, for taking the time!

word verification: flede!

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Alberto. It’s true, each of these memories is a doorway into another world. Or a seed, cradled by good warm earth.

Thanks, Kevin. I’m convinced that the world is full of strangers who know each other far better than they think.

Vassilis, that verification alone is a great comment. Amazing. And thank you for taking the time, because that was another moment I wished for.

She Writes said...

Here from Erin's. Glad I am.

William Michaelian said...

I’m glad you are too. Thank you.

ds said...

Erin sent me. I'm glad she did.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, ds. I appreciate your visit. Erin is a wonderfully perceptive person and writer.