Memoir Experiment Part One

My first distinct, detailed memory dates from 1974. It was summer, and we were moving into the house on Larchmont, where I grew up on the west side of Springfield, Illinois. I ran up the stairs and down the hallway, straight to my new bedroom. It was to be my own bedroom—for several years, my sisters had to share a room, even though there were four bedrooms in the house. The pink room, as we called it, later became Eileen’s room. My father had had plans to turn it into some sort of office, though he never did. I only remember it in the early days as a storage room for random junk.

I was very excited about my own future room, and I remember racing up the stairs and down the hallway with my mother in pursuit. I reached the end of the hall and flung myself down onto the orange carpeting and kept repeating, “This is my room!” My mother caught up to me and chastised me, telling me to get up off the floor, because the carpet was dirty.

My parents had a strange habit of referring to various things by color. My bedroom was the orange room, named for that same dirty carpet. The walls of the room were beige, in keeping with the quasi-suburban feel of the west side in those days. Eileen’s room was the pink room, named for the walls—the carpet was red. Kathleen’s was the blue room, both walls and carpet were blue. Mom and Dad’s room had walls and carpets that were green, but for some reason, this room escaped the moniker “the green room”—it was simply “Mom and Dad’s room.”

Initially cars were referred to by color and make: the white Pontiac, the green Chevy. Then there was a brief and confusing period during which no clear pattern was discernible. The Aspen wagon should have been the metallic copper Dodge. And the bronze metallic VW Rabbit was simply the Volkswagen, presumably to highlight the vaguely alien aspect of the only foreign car my father was ever convinced to buy (though it was manufactured in the US, in Pennsylvania, I believe). Suddenly the scheme was simplified, reaching an apex of color-based organization. The blue car, the red car, and the purple car came in sequence, being a navy blue Ford Taurus station wagon, a cranberry metallic Chevrolet Corsica my grandmother had driven before she died, and a burgundy Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, actually closer to the color of dried blood. My sister had driven this last car while in law school and shortly after, but left it behind when she moved to California. I drove it while in college and my friend Herchel and I called it the government car or the FBI car, because it was a large American sedan. We drove around Lake Springfield in that car, drinking cheap beer. Later Herchel married and gave up beer for diet soda. He found Jesus. He died of brain cancer.

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