|photo by ana traina ~2012~|
The record of my mind was skipping on the note of my violent memory as I stood standing in the middle of the folk museum surrounded now by a sea of strangers. All at once I was four again, and sitting in the back seat of the car as my father was driving my mother and I upstate to see my brother, William (he was considered the ‘mistake:’ he was the reason my parents got married so young), who was cast away in some private military school at the very tender age of seven. Holding tightly onto my new Raggedy Ann doll that my father had just bought me, I watched as he pleaded with my mother for them to try again. He told her he really loved her and gave her a little white box that had the most beautiful purple pin inside. My mother only glanced at the pin, and then promptly tossed it out the window, a gesture blatantly saying that she never loved my father, and could never love him. Silent fury filled the air. Then, and for reasons I still cannot explain, I rolled down my window and let Raggedy Ann dangle in the strong wind and then, with the slightest of movement, I unclenched my fist and let her go. Then, in what seemed like less than any measurably minute amount of time, she disappeared. In that moment, I realized that she would never return. The next part I like to keep buried, but I will never forget my feelings as I looked up at my father in the rear view mirror and saw tears running down his face, as the red hot burn of shame filled mine.
This memory has only surfaced as strongly one other time in my life. When I was twelve and living on Long Beach for the summer, I saw the film,”The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.” The summary of this movie goes something like this: a college professor begins to experience flashbacks from a previous life, and he is mysteriously drawn, by some cosmic force, to a place he has never been before, but is troublingly familiar to him. That summer I was completely troubled by that movie, yet I could not quite tell why. I recall that I was very lonely that summer on tiny beach cottage, among a sea of my boisterous relatives who thought I should be interested in boys, when at the time I was not!
My asexuality caused quite a ruckus among my very sexual aunts and my grandmother who (when my grandmother awoke each mourning, she beat her chest for her son - my father - who had died 8 years earlier) thought and fretted that I was gay. This was a very consternating situation, considering I never liked to displease my Grandmother, yet I simply had no interest in the opposite sex (or my own sex for that matter). In addition, I had absolutely zero grooming abilities, I was tall and clumsy, and I liked to dress like a boy. Furthermore, it didn’t help that my cousin who was six months younger than me was staying with us for the summer, and she was already a bona fide sex kitty goddess and had armies of boys after her. Everything about my sexuality during that summer only fueled the fires of my already extremely confusing life. It was at the peak of all of this chaos that that memory of my father resurfaced. Similarly today, with my son about to go into his senior year in high school, his eminent departure from the nest, my husband Scotty and best friend Scotty being away filming his television series, and all of the various work projects (Maude, zingertales, plays, screenplays, etc. the list goes on and on), I am at a very chaotic time in my life. So it’s no wonder that this memory came back with only the slight provocation of the Raggedy Ann doll.
About a year after the accidental death of my father and brother, and my mother’s deliberate disappearance, my grandmother took me out to Horne & Hartart on fifty-seventh street, and while we ate coconut custard pie from one of the little automated windows and she presented me with the Raggedy Ann doll, she said, “that one of her customers had found it on the side of the road and knew it belonged to her granddaughter.” With the tiniest gasp of joy I grabbed on to my grandmother and the Raggedy Ann doll and hugged them both. Now, it is only looking back at yesterday, the anniversary of my father and brother’s death, that I am able to make a little sense of that precious moment of my grandmother most generous gift on that day so long ago. Although, I let go of that Raggedy Ann doll that day in the car, and believed that it was never going to return, it eventually made its way back to me, and it reminded me that even though I would give anything to say, “I love you and I always have, and I always will” to my father one more time, at least I know that I will always have a piece of him to treasure, that somehow, maybe even magically, will always make it back to me.