Frosted Memories

November 17, 2008
By Rachel Newman, Farmington, CT

I didn’t know I was born in Denver until I turned 7. We were always moving, unpacking and packing again since Dad could never really stick to a job. Once we settled in one place and got everything unpacked, it was time to call the mover’s van all over again. Every time we got in our cramped 1990 Subaru he always promised “It’s gonna work out this time, don’t you worry.” Mom just stared out the window into a hectic horizon crammed with more boxes to fill and long car rides. My older siblings, Kara and Todd, pretended to ignore him so that they could avoid more disappointment. I tended to keep my mouth shut since Dad could get pretty angry sometimes but one time, I whispered, “Yeah, right.” He looked at me in the rear-view mirror with narrow, teary eyes and screamed out, “You just wait and see! It will work out and then you will be thanking me!” We moved six weeks after that one.

Sometime after my fourth birthday we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. The sticky summer heat raged on my dirty blonde hair and pruned fingers. A saturated lemonade glass clinked with melting ice as Mom sipped with her parched lips. Setting the wet glass down with her right hand, she wiped away sweat from her face with her left. Distant children’s laughter and screaming drifted away through the heat. She leaned her clammy neck back on the plastic lawn chair, the sun infiltrating her eyes. We were waiting for Dad to get home. I was listening for the sound of a car’s dry tires to softly pound against the moist ground. I imagined running towards his tall, bright figure and jumping into his strong arms as he set his overweight briefcase down. I could feel our tight embrace, never wanting to let go because I did not know when he would leave next, or where he was going. We stopped asking where he was going awhile back. We just assumed. But sometimes assumptions are wrong. That day he didn’t come back.

We kept waiting and waiting. Mom kept telling me, “His flight got cancelled and he’s stuck at the airport.” She was trying to reassure herself more than me. The house grew cold and silent. My siblings and I stopped playing tag. The laughing died out quickly, and the summer seemed to be growing older. I crouched on the front steps as I watched Mom desperately trying to reach him on the phone every day, but she never got an answer. I could hear her crying in her room almost every night, sobbing loudly. I decided that he was not answering because he and Mom must have gotten into a fight and he knew it was her that was calling. But, if I tried to call he would definitely know it was me and would positively pick up. I slowly dialed his number into the stiff square buttons of the kitchen phone. There was silence. My heart quickly jumped as I heard the first tone; riiinggg, riiinggg, riiinggg. My heart stopped beating and I could feel it drop into my stomach. I felt like I was going to throw up. Riiinggg. Why had I even bothered calling? I should just wait for him to get home instead of worrying myself silly. Riiinggg. Does he not love me? What did I do wrong? I made sure to promise him I would never do anything bad again. I would give up my vanilla ice cream on Sundays and never play tag again. I would go to school and work really hard. Riiinggg. Please just pick up.

The phone was torn away from my fingers and harshly thrown across the floor. I looked up to meet a pair of bitter cold eyes furiously staring down at me. A chill ran up my spine and my body obediently froze in place. A deep stalemate impressed itself on us both. Everything in the room seemed miles away, but Mom was closer than ever. She quickly threw her hand out to my arm and ruthlessly pulled me out of the kitchen. I hastily fought back, turning the other direction and desperately pushing away. I felt like my arm might as well fall off. My heart was beating harder than I had ever felt before, like it was going to burst out of my chest. She dragged me to the basement door and swung it open with a loud “CRASH!” I stared kicking and screaming as she picked me up from the floor. She pushed me in the center of my back with so much force that I fell down the open stairs. She locked me down there for two days.
The loud ringing of the truck outside on the loading dock woke me up. Throwing off the covers, I scrambled towards my alarm, then realized through my blurred vision that it was only 3 in the morning. I turned towards my roommate, Hannah, who was fast asleep, and then let out an annoyed sigh. I tripped over books and papers and stepped on something sharp to reach the side room window. It was snowing outside the scratched windows, where the truck was beeping obnoxiously, and the sun was still hiding over the pampered white trees. The street lights were lustrous over the tops of pale grounds; the fervent campus squirrels were playing games up and down frosty trunks. Hamilton building looked wintry, covered in colorless designs while trees’ wooden hands softly brushed away bits with dusting feathers. Edging closer to the pane I could feel the freezing breezes that would later push my hair back and turn my face rosy red; I could see the future snowball fights with friends and snow angels and snow men and women. I could smell the hot tea at Starbucks down the road and the cinnamon perfumes that led the holiday spirits. I quickly pulled on a pair of pants over the scars that developed from previous years of living with my Mom, and grabbed a pair of polka dotted boots and my heavy winter jacket then worked my way outside. The air was heavy and my eyes were starting to tear from the piercing cold as I stood before senior turf where the Christmas tree was lit with sparkling gold lights in front of the usually busy Main Street. The Miss Porter’s School sign, standing strikingly proud in the icy snow, and the long Mountain Road trees sprinkled with white, made everything look like a winter wonderland. Tiny specks of sky started sticking to my hair and eyelashes, making each blink cold and sodden. I stared blankly into the scene, taking it all in, each light reminding me of the past. “It’s gonna be alright this time.” I guess he was finally right.

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