What is your first memory? Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Drift back as far as you can---back to your childhood, back to the days before you could read, or perhaps before you could even walk. Is your first memory a pleasant one? Is it your mothers’ golden haloed face, smiling down at you like an ethereal angel? Perhaps it’s your fathers’ strong, caring hands on your back as he gently pushes you on a swing, the warm sun on your face, the wind dancing in your hair. I hope, as you play the highlight reel in your mind like a sepia-toned, vintage flick that your first conscious memory is a lovely one.
If not, your first recollection may unfortunately be like mine--- the stuff that nightmares are made of---a scary movie that haunts your sleep long after the channel is switched off. You cannot meditate or wish it away. No matter how tightly your eyes are squeezed shut, it’s always there--- a dusty, framed picture hanging crooked in your mind. You can never straighten it; you can never take it down from the cob web ridden room in the back of your brain.
My first conscious memory makes my heart thump and my stomach tighten in knots by simply recalling it. The fiend at the heart of my memory is a cruel, grey monster---the kind of monster that has often time compelled me take a running jump for my bed after flipping off the light. I sense its gnarled hands clawing and grabbing at my bare feet, hungry to rip my tender, goose-bump ridden flesh. But, the monster in my dream doesn’t hurt me. The monster hurts the one that I love the most.
My sister Shay helped me do the math. I was two years old. Shay was four. I recall holding the spindled wooden rails of my crib like a tiny prisoner, as I bawled. I remember the scene, as if I’m hovering near the ceiling, looking down into the dark room. I’m seeing it all as a disconnected bystander. I peer through the blackness, illuminated with small laser beams of filtering light, at my sister. She’s dressed in baby blue, footie pjs, and crying uncontrollably as well. The two of us are standing on our beds. I stomp my tiny feet on the rubber sheets that cover my mattress, protesting the violent act that plays out before me.
The hallway is lit, harsh and stark. The monster is there. The monster is a man. The monster is my father. He holds mama tight in his angry grip. He viciously squeezes her arms letting go only long enough to strike devastating blows, and then snatches her back relentlessly. As mama stumbles he regains his grip, steadies her like an unbalanced bowling pin, and repeats the merciless process. If she gets too far away from the beating, the monster quickly secures her long, blonde hair that’s a glow with a purple haze under the fluorescent lighting. Spooling her locks around his fingers, he rips her back to his side. The two perform a cruel dance. Mama is pleading. I don’t remember words, just weeping, and punching, and pulling, and terror. The monster turns to face our room. His teeth are gritted tight.
Mama falls toward us, her hands outstretched. Her eyes are wet, her face is swollen and lavender. She slams our fist damaged door shut with a shuddering crack.
My sharp, cruel memory ends there. I try to file the dark dream away in a box to be forgotten, but as much as I would like to lock it up forever, my unfortunate first memory is sure to drift back to me; a poisonous fog, resurfacing during insecure moments and lonely sleepless nights.
I’m grateful to Mama though, for the many light, and beautiful times spent with her---precious memories that help spackle and patch over the hurt. Like the days in spring when Mama and I picked bouquets of her favorite flower, sweet, lavishly scented lilacs. I remember helping Mama plant the bushes in our back yard by the whitewashed fence line. She let me hold the copper water can as a stream of liquid fertilizer rained down on freshly spaded soil. I cherish the memories of our hot, Oklahoma, summertime afternoons. I can still hear the "kshh-kshh-kshh" of the spritzing sprinkler I played in while mama sunbathed on a worn cotton patchwork quilt. Hank William’s voice crackled from the radio as I streaked back and forth through the ice cold water, shards of freshly mowed green grass clinging to my wet feet. I hold those simple times spent with Mama close. They’re tattooed in living color, permanently on heart forever.
It’s funny how certain songs or smells can put you back to a place in time from the past in an instant. I had to stop in my tracks one evening while strolling down a stretch of sidewalk in Nashville as I experienced one of those time travel moments. I was walking passed Jack’s BBQ, when I was transported back to a sunny afternoon with Mama. The song, “On the Bayou” was playing. The music was being piped from the restaurant through speakers for tourists and musician hopefuls listening pleasure. I stood, eyes closed; lungs full of Tennessee air feeling like a young child again.
To this day any time I smell lilacs or coconut Coppertone I’m instantly transported back to that cotton quilt laid out on freshly cut grass. I'm five years old and Mama is with me.
Mama loved the sun and flowers. Good things to love, but Mama’s favorite thing was music. Some mothers hand down family gems, antique linens, and fine, patterned china. Some mothers pass recipes from generation to generation---the perfect pie crust, or crispy, fried chicken, but mama passed her love for music down to me. She said music could inspire, even in the gloomiest of times. Mama and I would sit and thumb through the glossy square sleeves of art and photograph covered cardboard that contained the records in her collection on rainy afternoons. The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and the bluesy sound of Ray Charles mixed with the low roll of thunder and filled the air on good days.
Mama was a striking Swedish beauty with long, wavy, shiny blonde hair, flawless skin and large, liquid, turquoise eyes. Even Mama’s flaws made her more beautiful to me. A tiny chip between her pearly white front teeth only added to her Bridgette Bardot-like features. Mama turned heads wherever she went, which was often to her demise, as father was wildly jealous. Her favorite color was purple, just like the lilacs she cherished so much. Mama loved to wear silky chiffon scarves, most of which were lavender and purple. Her special occasion dress was a luxurious, violet, crushed velvet A-line with an ivory lace lapel, and gilded buttons that lined and accentuated her delicate back. Mama had magazine, movie star looks whenever she wore it.
One of my last precious memories of my mother was during tuck-in time, just one night before the monster took her away from me. I was five years old. Music drifted through our ranch style house. Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Sound of Silence” played faintly in the background. Mama came in to tell me goodnight, her White Shoulders perfume wafted sweetly, as she smiled and kissed me, surely leaving a small cherry stained set of perfect lips on my cheek.
“I love your purple mama. You’re the only Purple I know.” I complimented.
“Well thank you Emily. Purple’s my favorite color. What’s your favorite color doll?” Mama asked. “Mine’s purple too---just like you.” I responded without hesitation.
Mama’s tan, slender fingers untied the silky, purple scarf that was softly knotted around her neck. She smiled exposing her almost perfect teeth---perfect, except for the tiny chip missing due to one of the Monster’s nights of drinking and rough treatment.
Mama placed the scarf in my hands. “We’ll see how this looks on you tomorrow when you get dressed in the morning Emma.” Mama said quietly. “Maybe you can wear it for the first day of school. First grade…you’re growing up too fast munchkin.”
I lifted the gardenia scented scarf to my face, and pulled my comforter up to my cold nose. “Mama---purple’s my favorite color, because it’s your color.” I yawned closing my eyes.
When I was with Mama the tattered edges of my young life seemed less frayed---hemmed neatly and securely with love.
“Good night sweet girl. See ya in the morning.” Mama whispered.
That would be the last night Mama would ever tuck me in. I still have the purple scarf Mama gave me. I tie it to my mic stand before every show. It’s my most treasured possession in the entire world. I realize now that Mama was truly, nearly one of a kind. Mama’s color was as beautiful as she was---electric purple. Like neon, heat lightening sharp in the summer sky. The royal hue that exists in a breathtaking sunset or feathers of an exotic bird, floated just above her perfect face. I’ve only seen a handful of Purples like Mama. I don’t think Mama realized I was complimenting something other than her scarf the night she tucked me in for the last time. You see---I literally visualize people’s “color.” I see a glowing hue above everyone’s face I come in contact with. I see their aura---the color of their personality, the color of their true essence: blues, greens, yellow, pink, orange, red, and among a mix of others, purple. Be it a curse or a blessing, for the past eighteen years of my life, I’ve dealt with a kaleidoscope of human kind flooding my eyes---lighting up my world, each and every day.
I’m eighteen years old---a senior in high school this year, and I’ve never met a single person that can see color like me. I’ve learned to use my gift of seeing auras to help me judge the character of those I allow myself to get close to.
I am drawn, as if in a hypnotic state to the few Purple’s I’ve come across; to the point that I’ve almost walked out in front of heavy traffic in pursuit of them. They exude the spiritual and comforting essence that was my mother.
In stark contrast, I avoid like the plague, the Gray’s steely stares. The Grays are empty, cruel and heartless. Father was a Grey---a dark, menacing, monster that took Mama and her rare, royal purple light away from me forever.
I hope you enjoyed Chapter one of my new book, "Rock Angel."
Thank you for dropping by.
Have a beautiful and blessed Friday---turn on some good music and make stuff happen!