me, myself and i: part 1

October 6, 2007

so i want to write a little introduction to the world (as if) about myself that doesn’t sound totally corny or arrogant or both. i’m not sure i’m up to the task. i think i’ll end up doing this in two parts. when you get to the end maybe you’ll understand why.

before i get into the “who am i now” type of garbage, i suppose a little history is in order.

i was born february 9, 1978 in portland, maine in the middle of a blizzard. the whole blizzard thing was and still is highly celebrated in my family. although i have the news papers to prove it (both portland press and boston globe), i recently realized the weather couldn’t have been bad considering my mother made it to the hospital with no problem.

my parents were both 30, on their second marriages and living in downtown portland at the time of my birth. mom graduated from both westbrook college and UMass amherst respectively with a degree in education. dad went to rhode island school of art and design for fine arts and architecture. i believe my mother wanted to go on for a masters in education but was working in a law office during her pregnancy. my dad, the forever struggling artist, was working at a TV station trying desperately, i’m sure, to inject creativity into everything he touched.

my baby book, which sadly only gives my mother’s impression, states that i was a calm, happy newborn. i attribute my disposition to my mother’s ability to stay off the booze, cigarettes and bad food while pregnant and to give birth without drugs. about six months after i was born my parents began construction on a passive solar home in rural maine.

now, when i say “began construction” i mean just that; my mother, father and a handful of loyal friends and family built our house from foundation to roof. not only did they build our house but they also took on the task of building a second house a few hundred yards up a gravel path. friends of my parents, a couple, lived in that house. about nine months after they began construction my brother was born.

we lived a very simple life. my mother stayed home with my brother and me while my father went back and forth to work in portland. aside from the few bags of groceries my dad would bring home on fridays, we were pretty self sufficient and fairly isolated. my olfactory sense has always been my sharpest. as such, some of my earliest memories swirl through the air in scents that to this day bring me back to that house – mom’s freshly baked bread, a delivery of manure signaling time to plant the garden, maple sap bubbling on the stove, a wood fire, dog dander pillows, wet fern, cold snow.

soon, it seemed, we grew too big and too modern for the place i affectionately call “the house my parents built”. i can only imagine how lonely my mother was bludgeoned on the daily by two under socialized preschoolers. she tried desperately to schedule play dates for me and my brother and even bought a TV so we could watch sesame street (thereby leaving her the hell alone). but by the end of my kindergarten year the folks said screw the country and moved back to the city.

this assumes one can call portland a city. i remember it more like a small town. there was something kitschy and apple pie about it that sometimes make it more fond to me than “the house my parents built”. most of my memories of this time, age 6 to 7, come back to me in snap shots – me and my brother posing in front of our modest but newly constructed house on the first day of school or riding our big wheels around the cul-de-sac. i also remember walking up the street to the corner store unchaperoned, building snow forts in the small front yard, wondering the woods behind our street or taking “mystery tours” with my mom and dad to the quartz fields. it was a really magical time punctuated by my parents happiness.

soon, my dad was offered a job in florida, a place we as a family had been taking road trips to since i was six months old. the story goes something like this… my father interviewed for and was offered a job at a small niche publication in south west florida as an editor/graphic designer/typesetter. after one trip down for the interview he made a second trip to scope out a place to live.

we left portland on my last day of second grade and, despite the prospect of a 24 hour car ride, i was like a pig in shit. come on. florida? how could my parents contain two children ages 6 and 7? we were thinking endless vacation – micky mouse and white sand and hot tubs and all the soda and sugared cereal we could eat. boy were we wrong.

we arrived to find my father without a job, our family without a home and micky mouse about three hours away. the niche publication had been sold to a larger corporation and my dad’s future position wasn’t part of the deal. our house in a shiny new subdivision was still under construction. thank walt disney my grandmother had moved to the area about two years prior.

we spent the rest of that hellish summer in my grammie’s two bedroom 900 square foot manufactured home in a 55 plus community in the middle of nowhere. my brother and i, the only people under 55 besides my parents, quickly got ourselves banned from the pool, shuffle board court and billiards table in the club house after about a day.

finally, about a week before school was to start, we were able to move into our new place. it was palatial (to me) – a split style ranch with a pool looking over a man made lake. i was in heaven.

i met the girl across the street who was to be in my third grade class and all was right with the world. this girl was the bees knees. she showed me how to play football (and kick ass) with the other neighborhood kids, how to make fantastic mud pies while basking in florida sun showers and how to curl my bangs with her sister’s curling iron.

later on, during my preteen years, she would teach me how to drive (read: steal) her parents’ car, how to smoke pot and how to not be a virgin. i certainly don’t blame my “early development” on her. she was a year older than me, and had a sister three years older than her, but my late middle school and early high school years also coincided with the virtual destruction of my parents’ marriage (i would later learn that my father had a penchant for “other” women and was involved in affairs since before my parents married).

the drugs, and sex and overall debauchery provided by group of other latch-key kids gave me an excuse to get away from that pain – mentally, emotionally and physically. and wrapped up in their own hell, my parents were none the wiser.

during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, my family moved, sans dad, from our sickeningly suburban home to a tiny apartment. two weeks into my junior year i dropped out of school, “no, actually, i read the rules and i don’t need my mother’s permission to leave this fucking campus and never come back. where do I sign”.

i begged my mother to buy me a plane ticket to costa rica so i could live in the rainforest and eat three squares a day of brown rice and pot. she politely refused. eventually she talked me into going to an “alternative” high school. i finished my junior and senior years in record time and after years of “you’ll miss me once i’m outta here, mom!” i was finally FREE!!

i moved in with my boyfriend-at-the-time immediately, got a job and started living in the “real world”. if by “real world” you’re thinking move in with boyfriend-at-the-time and his father who let me smoke pot and cigarettes in the house and working minimum wage jobs while boyfriend-at-the-time sold pot and various hallucinogens then you’d be right on.

after my parents’ divorce, my father and i didn’t see or talk to each other much although we lived a short few miles apart. he did call, one late november day, to tell me he was dying. that’s literally what he said, “hey. just calling to tell you i have cancer and i’m dying. the doctor says i have about six months to live. i thought you’d want to know.” oh, did ya now?

the cancer, which started in his esophagus, slowly smothered him to death. i was there, said Psalm 23:4 with his black-metaphysical-baptist-25-year-old-mother-of-one-girlfriend, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i waited until i couldn’t take anymore, no daddy you’re not supposed to be in a hospital bed at 51 years old, and left to learn a few hours later he had died.

i remember the words – “your dad died” – spoken with that up tick at the end as if it were a question. “no”, i said. but i knew better. i knew the lump in my throat would never ever go away.

after his death i went into a virtual state of shock. i was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder and put on paxil after a few visits to the emergency room and some talk therapy. although highly functioning in my public life, i was a mess internally. i could barely go out to get groceries because of the anxiety attacks. “do they know”, i would think to myself in the check out line. i would go days without eating and then binge on ben and jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. i had horrible nightmares where my teeth would fall out.

did i mention my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year prior to my father’s death? she thought something was wrong around her 48th birthday. she did everything right – mammogram, ultrasound, everything. her doctor looked at the lump, a big fat gray spot illuminated by the lightbox and thought, “meh”.

he never told her she may have cancer. not until her 50th birthday and a new doctor did she learn she was a ticking time bomb. a 20% survival rate. she died on July 27, 2002.

five years on, it’s still impossible to describe what her death means to our family. she was the thread that held our loosely woven quilt together. she was the meal maker, the care taker, the party planner, the won’t take shit from any of you fools head basher. she was witty and raw and loving and everything beautiful in life and she was ripped from us with such grace. she was impeccable.

my grammie, in her old age, slips and calls me by her name and it feels as if someone has forcibly plunged my whole body into a vat of frying oil. about two weeks before she died i decided to leave my boyfriend-at-the-time – the man i’d fled to to get away from her. i packed a few things and moved in with a close family friend. a few months after that i got a place of my own.

i was an orphan…


One comment

  1. […] nenasadije wrote a fantastic post today on “me, myself and i: part 1″Here’s ONLY a quick extractafter his death i went into a virtual state of shock. i was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder and put on paxil after a few visits to the emergency room and some talk therapy. although highly … […]

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