In the past sixteen months of Covid-19 restrictions on where we go, and the small bubbles within which can meet in real time, my memory insists on traveling backward in time. Fear of looking forward? So much time in which to meditate, contemplate, that the mind goes wild? I find myself revisiting corners of my life that are filed so deep in my memory it’s astounding, and sometimes alarming, that the faded images become more vivid than recent events.
Most often journeys of this sort occur in my writing practice when a story insists on being told. For a particular purpose I have been re-reading, re-considering The Boy, which is a braiding of fiction, a true crime story, and a mix of memoir and meta-fiction. In this process, I’m finding examples of the backward time travel with the same clarity that’s come to the surface in my Covid-19 flood of memories.
From The Boy (Oolichan Books 2011) an excerpt from one of the chapters that comprise the memoir sections that are entitled, “Roads Back.”
“It impressed me so, at ten, to be living in a place that was measured in blocks, to have an address instead of a post office box. New Sarepta had no more than half a dozen streets when we lived there; a creamery, post office, service station, general store, church, school, and hotel. And a coffee shop, owned and operated by my parents. We had living quarters in the back, and my mom cooked and served meals, while my dad drove away early every morning to check well sites for Edmonton Pipeline. Oil pump jacks in farm fields were as much a part of the landscape as barns and fields of barley.”
“I was so shy about this business of feeding strangers that went on in our home, that I lurked at the side of the house rather than out front or inside where men’s dark green work shirts hunched like turtles over coffee mugs thick as bathroom sink porcelain. Their bums spread on the red shiny stools, where after the coffee shop closed, a child could twirl until she was falling down dizzy.”