Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kool Aid Memories

All night long, the winds battered against the window. Maya tried to think what it was before the hot pre-summer winds of Israel started. Ah, yes. This summer she’ll hit the creeks of Northeast USA and maybe even the sandy beaches of California. She’ll feel cool again. Just like when she first ate Kool-Aid for the very first time.
She first dusts the suitcase off, then slowly opens the zipper, missing the one that actually opens the suitcase. Its wheels have been eaten from many airports. Its frame is a bit bent out of shape, torn in some places, stronger in the handle, however always reliable. She is tempted to buy a new one, but it has been with her since she immigrated to Israel in 1990.

Even after the winds have already quieted, Momma’s voice comes through the zipper.

“Don’t forget to label the clothes.”

“He’s only two years old. No summer camp,” she says.

In goes the baby’s swimsuits along with old maroon jellies. And the cotton swabs. And the book on Penquins. She is a bit unsure when it comes to packing, so she hopes to listen to good advice. But it’s just a squeaky voice with no real words --just a blotted sound. The voice swoops in and out and she quickens the pace, unfolding each article of clothing and flinging them to get rid of dust. Presents of clothes from her mother’s friends she never used. She flattens each corner and crease against the vinyl lining just to make sure each inch of the suitcase is filled. After much debate, she limits to herself one journal and a book. Mom’s advice, of course.

Taking down the suitcase from the top of the closet is like letting the memories fall again. She is not sure which memory to put in and which should stay out. But her two year old makes the final decision, a choice that overwhelms all. He sticks in the “I love New York City” T-shirt she bought for him two summers ago when they visited her Alzheimer’s stricken mom in New York City. She’ll have to explain to her son her mom is now a grandma. It will be ten years this August since her diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

Just when she wanted to take her little redhead and suck on popsicles near a creek in Earlton, New York where she went to a Jewish sleepaway camp for so many years, she is reminded that their first stop is in fact, New York City.

Summer in New York City. Maya, the Mom, pictures her son fidgeting over an ice cream popsicle while she watches the even streaks of strawberry and orange blur after a long dirty haze and hears the factory workers across the street. Dad’s paintings stayed in the same position while mom's dusty cassettes of her concert days remain hidden behind a bag of books in her closet. Did her mom really know how fast her fingers could fly?

She’ll only be staying in New York City for a week or two, before she finds the right home. It’s enough to remind her how she  longed to get out of the city as a teenager and now that she’s coming back to the States for good, she keeps her mom away from a visible distance – far away so she can close the squeaky voice shut.
But it doesn’t stay shut.
Many summers ago, Maya looks for her Mom in a sweltering hot Grand Central Station after she returned from nine weeks of summer camp. Mom waved frantically. Maya kept the her Kool-Aid pink mouth tongue curled tightly under her mouth. (Momma never knew how much Kool Aid she ate.) Bloody red stained from the night before, she bundled under a blanket in the dark with an almost dead flashlight battery with friends who loved Kool Aid just as much as she did. Those confessions go into the suitcase too.

Rounding up the final things, she takes down the file folder with all of mom’s precious documents and important papers of her Alzheimer’s. With the suitcase finally padlocked and closed, she know there’s one thing she’ll do right after recuperating from jet lag. She’ll walk down the Hudson River Walkway with her little son’s hand in hers as she dreams of Kool-Aid.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent again, my friend. Pain and joy, but mostly joy.