phantom voicemail

 

 

now playing: mary chapin carpenter, “only a dream”

 

 

i turned on my cell phone last night as i was walking out of the building to my car and saw that i’d accumulated 4 voice messages since i’d last turned it on.

two of them were from my sister, who’d called on christmas day.  jayda had told me that they called them on christmas, but hadn’t said much else about it…i assumed that she probably hadn’t gotten our new phone number yet, so they weren’t able to call us, but i never really gave much thought to calling her back…those conversations are almost always awkward, and not much is ever said, so i tend to avoid them most of the time. i have gotten caught on occasion in the past, and i do my best to be a good little soldier and get through them as best as i can.

to the passing acquaintance, or to those who only know me through what i write here, it probably appears that i come from a family of phantoms – i seldom discuss my family, or where i’m from, or anything historic of that nature. those who know me a little better may think the same thing, actually – in fact, i’ve had friends who’ve known me for ages tell me as much. michael o’hagan, who served as best man in my first wedding, once told me that as well as he felt he knew me, he didn’t know anything about me…my family, where i grew up, things of that nature. and at that point in time, he’d have been right. and at this point in time, i’m sure there are quite a few people who could attest to the same statement. and these are people who probably know me as well as anyone is really capable of knowing me, too.

it’s just not something that i talk about very often.

i never really considered my childhood to be traumatic, or unhappy – i never felt neglected in as many words, or anything of that nature…i just always felt like i was “misplaced”, if that makes any sense. i felt like i had been swapped at birth with another boy who was happily living the life i was supposed to be living a thousand miles away from where i was…or maybe he felt just as misplaced as i did, i don’t know.

all i know is that i had absolutely nothing in common with the people around me who were preordained to have been my family, and it was apparent in just about every passing hour of every day. i couldn’t have been more out of place among my family if i’d been a tribal west african child with a loincloth and a bone in my nose.

i don’t hold them responsible for any long-term emotional wreckage, nor do i think ill of them – they are who they are, and that doesn’t make them bad people by any stretch of the imagination. it’s just the way it was.

that doesn’t mean that i didn’t get my ass kicked by my cousins, or made fun of for stupid shit…but my family didn’t corner the market on that kind of thing. and, honestly, 95% of the time, there really isn’t too much about my childhood that i would change. i could’ve done without the outdoor toilets and houses with no running water and waking up to the bitter cold that permeated every corner of the house in the mornings until the fire that my mother built in the stove managed to take the edge off the chill – i’d have been glad to leave that to someone else, but as a whole i don’t look back in anger or with regret about much. i’d probably sing a different song if i hadn’t had the means and the motivation to remove myself from all that to the extent that i have, though. now, it all feels like water under the bridge, and it’s part of who i am, and what’s made me the person i am today.

whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable on a number of levels, i’m sure…

i don’t doubt, for instance, that the fact that i grew up with the absolute bare minimum necessary to survive is pretty much directly responsible for the materialistic streak that i’ve developed as an adult…and when i say materialistic, i don’t necessarily mean in the fashion most people immediately think of when you say that word – i don’t go out and buy a new car when one of my neighbors comes home with one, and i’m not constantly playing the “keeping up with the joneses” game…but if i want something, i get it – whether i need it or not, as often as not. same with my kids…if they ask for something, they usually get it – because i remember what it was like to want things that i couldn’t have.

as personality flaws go, it’s probably my biggest one – by a lap or so, even.

(of course, if you’ve visited the guitar page of the photos section of my site, none of this comes to you as earth-shattering news.)

i think everyone’s flaws and strengths can be traced back to their childhood, in various ways – and most psychiatrists would probably tend to agree with me, based on what i’ve been told…and certainly, all the old cliches apply as well: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, blah blah blah…

but i think that i use the “i coulda done a lot worse” cliche to avoid asking myself what could have been done differently. certainly, there’s nothing i can do to change it now…nothing’s going to make those christmas phone calls any less of a glaring example of how different i’ve become, and how much more detached i am with every passing year.

and yet every time i hear this song, it makes me sad to the very center of my heart in a way that no other song does….

…i can recall the sound of the wind
as it blew throught the trees and the trees would bend
i can recall the smell of the rain
on a hot summer night coming through the screen

i’d crawl in your bed when the lightning flashed
and i’d still be there when the storm had passed
dead to the world ’til the morning cast
its light all around your room

we lived on a street where the tall elm shade
was as green as the grass and as cool as a blade
that you held in your teeth as we lay on our backs
staring up at the blue and the blue stared back

i used to believe we were just like those trees
we’d grow just as tall and as proud as we pleased
with our feet on the ground and our arms in the breeze
under a sheltering sky

twirl me about, and twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
and when I look up at you looking down,
say it was only a dream

a big truck was parked in the drive one day
they wrapped us in paper and moved us away
your room was no longer next door to mine
and this kid sister thing was old by that time

but oh how our dreams went bump in the night
and the voices downstairs getting into a fight
the next day a silence you could cut with a knife
and feel like a blade at your throat

twirl me about and twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
when I look up at you looking down
say it as only a dream

the day you left home you got an early start
i watched your car back out in the dark
i opened the door to your room down the hall
i turned on the light and all that I saw
was a bed and a desk and couple of tacks
no sign of someone who expects to be back
it must have been one hell of a suitcase you packed

twirl me about, twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
when I look up at you looking down
say it was only a dream…

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