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Pennies and Thunder

My window was dark, the ceiling light reflected in the glass. I sat on the beige carpet of my room, my new room, with the Big Girl bed, not a crib because I was a Big Girl; the baby would sleep in the crib.

On another day, a sunny day, I would hide behind this bed and slide my teeth over the tops of flavored lip glosses, so much more satisfying than putting the gloss on my lips and then licking it off. I’d eaten two before my mother caught me. The chocolate flavor was good, but cherry was my favorite.

But that hadn’t happened yet. Tonight I was alone in my room shaking pennies out of the hole in the bottom of my plastic Santa Mouse bank. It was still a Santa Mouse bank, dressed in a red flannel Santa suit and black plastic belt. Later he would lose his outfit, but tonight the Santa Mouse bank was still in uniform, and I clutched the flannel as I shook him back and forth, up and down, coaxing the pennies out of the mouse’s feet and onto the carpet. Some clattered against the inside of the bank and then fell with a nearly inaudible thud on the thick pile of the carpet. Most tinked against the pennies already on the floor.

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The window flashed bright with lightning and a roar of thunder vibrated through the house.

Did I know these things were thunder and lightning, or did that knowledge come later? We lived in San Diego where thunderstorms were rare. Did I know the names for what was happening outside?

What I knew for sure was that the noise sent me down the hallway, feet slapping against the tiles, to the living room. My mother was not there. She was with the baby at the hospital. In the morning I would meet my new brother, and in a few days I would sit on the couch with a pillow supporting my arm and feel the warmth and weight of the baby on my lap, and in a few months I would hear him laugh as I pushed him across the floor in his wheeled walker and I would laugh, too, and do it again to hear him laugh again. But tonight I felt alone and scared.

I sought my father, and I found him slouched against the back of the couch, hands folded on his stomach and chin resting on the buttons of his shirt. His snores competed with the thunder. I patted the corduroy of his knee and whispered, “Daddy?”

Nothing.

I cautiously patted a little harder and said his name a little louder. His snore stopped abruptly. Behind his glasses, his eyes remained shut. I held my breath with him and listened to the rain beating against the roof. Then with a snort, the snore resumed. The house felt too large, too full of space, my skin cold where I so wanted arms around me, a lap to snuggle on, a voice to tell me that everything was okay. My eyes filled with water.

I padded back down the hallway and felt the carpet against my calves as I sat cross-legged on the floor again. I reached out and picked up a penny, put it in my mouth. With my tongue I caressed the metal, tangy, soft bumps on one side, ridges on the other, until it grew warm and I spit it out and it made a whispered thud on the rug. Thunder growled through the house again. I cried, and I placed a new, cold penny on my tongue.

Written as part of the Remember the Time Blog Hop. This month’s theme: your earliest memory.

8 thoughts on “Pennies and Thunder

  1. Pingback: Origins | Imperfect Happiness

  2. One of my earliest memories was when my brother was born too, and it’s funny that those moments are cloaked in a little sadness and the feeling of being alone too.

    Beautifully written.

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    • Thank you, Emily. Yes, that feeling of aloneness is something I tried to keep in mind when my second child was born. I’m not sure how much I actually “remember” and how much I’ve reassembled of the night my brother was born; it will be interesting to see what narrative my daughter forms of the night her own brother was born.

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