I Remember

I got Teresa Joe Brainard's I Remember for Valentine's Day, and now that she's read it, I am. Reading it for the first time in 2009 (first published in 1970), it strikes me how much it resembles a response to a Facebook meme, or a blog project like The Chatelaine Shops or Spends. The genius of the idea being that it came 30+ years before those kinds of things--and not in response to the anyone!-instant!-publishing of the internet, which makes it seem obvious.

I've been in at least four writing classes in which we were asked to freewrite on the phrase I remember "in the manner of Joe Brainard's I Remember." I'm lousy at freewriting and the exercise has always left me cold. But after reading Brainard for ten minutes or so, I found myself writing "I remember" sentences in my head--and remembering things I'd never remembered when "freewriting" (forcedwriting) on that exercise. I got up to type some out, and here they are, in place of a response to the recent "25 Random Things About Me" meme:

I remember the Rodriguez girls who took piano lessons from our same piano teacher and performed at the same recitals my sister and I did. They wore "Add-a-Bead" necklaces and their parents gave them a new gold bead at every recital.

I remember envying teenagers for getting to walk through doors marked "Employees Only."

I remember living with my girlfriend the winter we were 18 and had little money. I got annoyed that she insisted on buying Jewish rye bread, which cost 30 cents more than plain rye bread.

I remember walking with her from the grocery store to the basement apartment we were living in, a mile away. It began to rain and the paper bags holding the groceries started to dissolve. She took off her coat, even though it was freezing, and used it to carry the groceries.

I remember walking in downtown DC with her later that week and giving a dollar to a panhandler sitting on the pavement (to impress her). It did, and she kissed me, and the panhandler leapt to his feet and yelled "Freaks! Freaks!" after us until we ducked down into a subway station.

I remember cassingles, and owning one of Wilson Phillips's "Hold On."

I remember Popcorn Circus, the store that sold nothing but flavored popcorn (bubble gum, green apple, blue raspberry, cinnamon...) that was the (overpriced) must-have snack for birthday parties when I was in 4th grade.

I remember finding it impossibly sophisticated in 8th grade when a friend ate an apple by cutting off an individual slice with a knife, eating it, cutting off another individual slice, etc. It hadn't occurred to me that it was possible to eat an apple like that. I doubted I could ever "pull it off."

I remember for a long time thinking that "Sumer is icumen in" referred to Sumer/Sumerians, and perhaps icemen (was it a typo?).

I remember being 15 and purchasing Leaves of Grass and a cassette tape of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto from the same store, going home and listening to the concerto while reading the book, feeling intellectual.

I remember listening to 10,000 Maniacs "Verdi Cries" over and over the same year, full of longing for the beach, the bath, the pastries, the jackal-headed woman drawn in the sand, Natalie Merchant, and a classmate I felt sure would "get it" all.

I remember James Swearingen.

I remember going to Hechinger's hardware store with my dad and getting to pick out a paint chip or a washer. I still think washers make great tokens of affection.

I remember Speak n' Spell, and how strange the recorded male voice sounded saying "W"--it sounded slurred and slightly drunk: vuhhvullyou.

I remember liking the theme songs and credits of Saturday morning cartoons more than the shows themselves.

I remember highlighting passages I found "poetic" in my first bible. I was eight, and still have the book.

I remember the first time I saw k.d. lang (in the "Trail of Broken Hearts" video on VH1) and the first time I saw Ya Kid K of Technotronic (in a Saturday Night Live performance). I couldn't tell for certain what their genders were, and was instantly attracted to them.

I remember lots of talk about an alcoholic beverage called "Cisco," that came in flavors like grape and orange and was said to contain liquid crack, but never seeing a bottle of it.

I remember being taken aback when I met my first college roommate, who was overweight, black, a mother of a toddler, and ironed her (light blue) sweatpants. All Sweet Valley visions of "sharing clothes with my roomie" evaporated.

I remember realizing, at around age 23 as a graduate TA, that all of those "What I Did This Summer" essays one wrote at the beginning of a school year were assigned for writing diagnostic purposes as opposed to true interest about one's life on the part of one's teachers. At the same time I realized that "Who Can Be the Quietest?" played in the back seat of the car as a child was not a true competition but a way to get one's children to shut up. [Shock!]

I remember painting the blue veins and red arteries of a Visible Woman.

I remember, in the books of my youth, people (especially mothers) often becoming "cross."

I remember, when the song came out in 8th grade, none of us buying that "You Don't Have to Take Your Clothes Off (To Have a Good Time)."

I remember reading, at 15, that 15 was the average age at which girls in the U.S. lost their virginity, and thinking I really needed to get on it, because the thought of being "average" at anything was repellent enough, let alone the thought of being less or slower than average.

I remember being the first one awake at slumber parties in another kid's house, and how, when you had a glass of milk at home, it tasted like milk, but when you had a glass of milk at someone else's house, it tasted like milk + the glass.

I remember finding marbles (clearies or marbleds, not cat's eyes, which were not aesthetically pleasing) sublimely, almost wisely, beautiful (heaven in a wildflower) and keeping mine in a purple velvet Crown Royal bag. I remember, years later, meeting a woman who kept her sex toys in a purple velvet Crown Royal bag.

1 comment:

kg said...

This list was beautiful - thank you for sharing!

I was motivated to post because of your comment about Hechinger's. I have memories of going there with my dad, too, and haven't heard the name for years.

BTW, this is Kara from Teresa's mentor group, native of Springfield, Virginia. :)