To memorize the planets in school, the teachers told us My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto. So simple. Every child has a mother who serves pizza. Every child can therefore memorize the planets.
I was good at memorizing things. I learned the times tables in ten minutes. I could recite every state capital and identify elements in the periodic table, but I couldn’t seem to say the words my mother aloud. Instead, I crammed my head with facts while I pushed my mother, my mother, my mother down into that black hole inside of me.
In 2016, the International Astronomical Association downgraded Pluto from its status as a planet. Just like that, it was out of the group. My very excellent mother just served us nine…just served us nothing?
Dad left when Mom tried to run him over in the driveway because he wanted to put my youngest brother Johnny up for adoption. He’s retarded, he yelled, as if that was conclusive. The headlights blazed as she put the car in drive and my father leapt out of the way to save his kneecaps.
After he moved out, the phone rang and rang. My siblings periodically leaped up to answer it, anxious to make the ringing stop. Each time, my mother yelled at them. Don’t touch it.
The word telephone is derived from two Greek words that together mean distant voice.
In the game of telephone, a message that originates with one participant is whispered to the other members of the group one by one. The accuracy of the message depends on what each subsequent person hears and repeats.
Memories are like this too.
In 1993, the company that makes Coca-Cola debuted OK Soda, a soft drink. The marketing campaign included a toll-free hotline 1-800-I-FEEL-OK where callers could listen to urban legend type stories, answer true or false trivia questions, and record messages to the company. I drank OK Soda and called the helpline repeatedly. The soda’s slogan: Things are going to be OK.
I used to sit in a classroom where a white Jesus hung from a cross while a teacher taught me that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. I accepted this fact unquestioned, innocent to the human propensity to obscure and rewrite history. Turns out, it would be more accurate to say Mr. Bell won the race to patent the telephone.
The first telephone exchange was located in New Haven, Connecticut. It was designated a national landmark, only to be torn down to build a parking lot eight years later.
My paternal grandmother worked for the telephone company in Boston. She started as an operator, manoeuvring the cord switchboard to connect parties. She told me the Kennedys were known to call collect.
She visited us once when Mom was in rehab. My brother Shawn tried to tell her a story about going to the park. She grew agitated when she could not understand him. What’s he saying? she demanded. I wondered what was so hard to comprehend.
My mother had eight children. My parents had six children. When she died, my father took only four children with him. I was not one of them.
I have spent my entire adult life searching for a home.
I have a recurring dream that my siblings and I live somewhere together, and we have to pack for an urgent trip. Lately, that dream has taken place in our childhood home and we are fearfully packing because the house is no longer ours. In one version, we listen to the answering machine for clues as to when we will be evicted.
When we were kids, if we didn’t let Paul watch Power Rangers he would scream and scream until we relented. Power Rangers have special powers to fight evil forces, including the sorceress Rita Repulsa. Rita has conquered worlds before with the help of her army of monsters. Her attempt to conquer planet Earth follows 10,000 years of floating in a dumpster somewhere out in space and she is angry.
In 2020, scientists discovered particles in space that could belong to a parallel universe.
After Mom died, and after I tried to join her, I had to go to therapy where I sat and stared at the ground for fifty minutes.
When I was in college, I often went more than six months without talking to any of my siblings.
Pluto used to be a warm planet where oceans once flowed before it was covered in an icy shell.
Sometimes the sun gets tired and goes into a less active state called a solar minimum. Coronal holes can form during this time, creating lower energy and cooler spots. Coronal holes can last for months.
After a decade in New York City, I gave away most of my belongings and fled to Florida. I was in my early 30s and thought the palm trees and sunshine could be the balm to heal me. Instead, I was sunburnt and barely tethered to the world. I sought grounding in men and wondered why I remained afloat, my feet unable to find the ground.
I was born the same year Sally Ride became the first woman from the United States to go to space.
Children who experience trauma are more likely to use substances to cope with their emotions. In my experience, men are a substance.
My sister Ann and I returned to our family home two decades after we left precipitously. We introduced ourselves to the new owner. We left a lot of stuff in the house, we say. Yes, a lot of stuff, he agreed. We are too polite to ask to come inside. Also, it’s best to accept what you no longer have.
The first words transmitted via telephone were Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.
During these recent stay at home orders, I linger on the phone for hours with my siblings.
We talk about childhood memories that we unearth from twenty five years ago like those time capsules from elementary school.
Scientists say that you can see the birth of a baby planet if you look through a horoscope at the yellow center of an orange and red cosmic spiral.
Kristin is a writer from Boston who currently resides in South Florida. She is the assistant managing editor of Gulf Stream Magazine and her work recently has appeared in Qu, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Brevity’s nonfiction blog.