My mother has a problem with what I remember. She seems irritated that some of my memories are lost to me. The memories that make her out to be a good mother, not that she isn’t a good mother now. But now things are different. Still, from the age of eight to eighteen, mom & dad were never home & this is really bothering her in her old age. As a result, she tends to ask questions that I have no real answer to.
“Remember when I used to take you to Zayres at midnight?”
“No mom, to be honest, the only reason I know Zayres existed was because you used to work there & still occasionally talk about it.”
“Remember when we used to go to the donut store? Remember when I used to make homemade bread? Remember when we used to go to the beach? Remember when I tried to teach you how to swim & the water scared you so much you tore out a handful of my hair?”
The pre latch key memories are gone to me. All the memories that she wants me to remember are gone to me. I was a little kid. I wasn’t even in school yet & deep water still scares the shit out of me. She was an adult when all of this was happening, I was still a really young child but that doesn’t stop the look of depression on her face when I tell her that I honestly cannot remember any of that.
That period of time in my life is vague and extremely cloudy. There is a nice fog of war that comes with extreme youth. I remember only odd things, things that I am reluctant to share with her.
I think I vaguely remember not recognizing my parents from the waist up as a child. Well that is not exactly true. But I do remember going to the mall, the HIP maybe, Harlem & Irving Plaza, & getting lost because I followed the wrong pair of blue jeans. Back then, my parents were giants. I vaguely remember playing on the kitchen floor & thinking how enormous my mother was as she towered over me while she was doing the dishes.
I remember crying my eyes out when my parents took me to the doctor & he told me that I was going to be bigger then either of them. I remember being convinced that that meant that I wouldn’t be able to fit in the house. And I remember being frightened of the drain in the bath tub & how it could suck me down it.
My parents used to be huge. Now they are only around five-feet tall. Now I tower over them both by more than a foot & I can still fit in the house.
What really freaks my mother out is that I don’t have any of the fond summer memories that she had as a child. She remembers hikes & walks & picnics & playing with her friends & bike rides.
Mom was an air force brat. Mom grew up in the UK. Mom remembers England & Scotland as a child. Good for her.
I grew up in Chicago. I grew up in the Midwest of America. I grew up in the biggest & best city in the heartland & the best city in America.
There is a big fucking difference between the UK & Chicago.
In Chicago, the smart people spend their summers as far underground as they possibly can. The city has a reputation for being bitterly cold, but that is really not fair. It gets in the sub zero weather, but not as cold as a lot of the other states. It is no where near as cold as North Dakota, which a lot of people think is hot & barren until they go to Fargo in the winter & have to wait four months for their testicles to drop. Chicago is no where near as cold as fucking Fargo is. Fargo’s winters will chill you to the bone.
I’m a Chicago kid, I don’t mind the cold. I have a lot of memories of playing outside in the winter. I have a lot of memories of walking outside & instantly having the snot in my nose freeze or taking a shower & letting my wet hair freeze on the way to school. That bull shit is bull shit I can handle.
I used to wait for the bus or L & maybe eight times out of ten, some conversationalist would make a witty comment about the weather that I heard a thousand times before.
“It sure is cold outside.”
“Nah, it reminds me of home.”
“Oh really, where’s home?”
That was usually good for a laugh & if the conversationalist was a woman, good for a phone number. I can’t use it out here in the burbs. There’s no public transportation out here. Out here people go from their cars to inside in the winter time. You hardly need a jacket.
I miss my jacket. I used to move into it like I moved into an apartment. Jackets are good for at least four more pockets. Jackets mean that I can carry any number of things that I have to do without in the summer, mainly because I hate having things in my pants pockets. No, mainly because I have a pair of testicles & am too self conscious to carry a purse. Its the reason I don’t have a smart phone, or an Ipod. I have a strict cut off to the size & weight of shit that I carry in my pants pockets. In the summer time, I don’t even carry a wallet. I’m sure that it is a mental disorder that the DSMV-IV will have me institutionalized for.
At the moment, the summer isn’t bad here. At the moment. We have a summer that feels like summers in France at the moment. Completely tolerable. But most of the time, the summers in Chicago are oppressively hot. Last summer was brutal. But last summer was brutal & dry. Most of the time it is brutal & humid as all fuck. Sometimes the rain clouds will linger above the city for weeks before it actually rains. They do it to taunt you because it’s so fucking hot that you long for rain & while they are taunting you they raise the humidity to ninety-percent so everything is fucking sticky & you feel filthy the moment you walk out of the A/C.
If you are lucky enough to have A/C. I remember once, in college, my roommates & I spent nearly the entire summer hanging out in Chris’ bedroom because he was the only one of us that had a window unit.
Chris, ironically the only one of my college roommates to own an A/C, loves the heat & hates the cold. He has a theory that when you feel cold, it’s your body telling you that it is dieing. What he doesn’t know is that when you feel heat, like the heat of most Chicago summers, it is also your body telling you that it is dieing & that death is far worse than freezing to death.
When I was either a junior or senior in high school El Nino struck like a bad Mexican wrestler. That summer I remember. That summer wasn’t a blur of simply trying to stay cool enough so you won’t die. That summer I was outside all the time. I never had a picnic, but I have clear memories of hikes & walks & outdoor dates & skidding my head across the asphalt because in my youth I thought I had the mad skills enough to jump over an upside down shopping cart.
It’s something that mom doesn’t understand, but it is the key difference between a childhood in the UK & a childhood in fucking Chicago summers. In Chicago, spring & fall are where the really great memories are, especially fall. That’s the time you are outside & having fun.
Not that winter isn’t fun & I’m not too old to hang onto the bumper of a car & take turns sliding behind it in the snow before the plows come through. But I am, apparently, too old for snowmen. There is a certain age where men have to stop building snowmen & that comes with the development of a sense of humor. A lot of the women I know are still capable of snowmen, but the men, well, if they don’t want a ticket for pornography than their only other snowman option is the horrific. In either case, it’s not good for anyone.
It’s still spring in Chicago, but only because the seasons have shifted & gone insane due to climate change….& yet there are still people that deny it. The weather here is more unpredictable than ever before, but it won’t be long until it’s too damn hot to go outside & I’ll be locked indoors waiting for the sun to set so it will become slightly more tolerable. Hopefully, this year, it will be a summer of lingering & taunting clouds & not the extreme dry heat that turned the Midwest into a wasteland. Chicago got off easy last year. I drove throw Indiana & Ohio, the cornfields that were usually taller than me at harvest were only ankle high & a burned out brown.
Oh well, fuck it, enjoy it while you can.