I think I’ve mentioned that my parent’s dream house was built high on the “bench” of the foothills in my hometown. For years, we were the only house up there and the acreage they had purchased was on the very edge of the bench, offering spectacular views of the valley below. To take advantage of that view, my folks had designed the master suite (a huge area that took up nearly half of the second floor) with incredibly large floor to ceiling windows that ran nearly the entire length and width of the bedroom, office, and bathroom that made up the suite. The windows had heavy drapes that could be pulled to shut out the sun and turn the suite into a dark cave, but the drapes were rarely used, as the view was beautiful, especially at night with all of the beautiful lights. Plus, let’s be honest, being perched up on that hill, the only house within a mile, with the ability to survey all of the “common folk” below did give one a sense of being king of the hill in a very literal sense!
Being so far away from other houses afforded a privacy that my parents enjoyed. My parents also liked to be comfortable and often relaxed in their room wearing just their underwear or, particularly in my mother’s case, opting to wear nothing at all. Mom wasn’t shy about her body, which was kind of surprising to me (as a horribly body conscious teen) because she was not a small woman. In fact, from the time she had been a teenager until she was in her late 30s, mom battled with weight issues. She later had bariatric surgery and lost all the extra weight, but even before then it was not that unusual for mom to holler at us to “come on in” and then we’d find her getting into the shower or just toweling off to get dressed. There was more than one occasion in the middle of the day when I walked in on my parents “in the act,” as it were. Those images are still seared into my mind – never to be unseen! So, you get the picture (perhaps more of a picture than you were bargaining for) of my parents and their bedroom.
One Sunday, my folks went to church and after the meeting, they were in the lobby socializing with other members before going home. Mom and dad were headed for the door when they overheard the following conversation: “How are you liking that new telescope, Bob? Have you had a chance to look for the rings of Saturn yet?” Bob responded, “It has great resolution…and we have a great view of the Shaw’s at night. They put on quite a show!”
Needless to say, the drapes were drawn that night – and every night thereafter.
So, you might think this is the end of the story. I did – but then I sent the story to my mom to see before I posted it. I felt a little uncomfortable posting something that was more my parent’s story than MY story – especially when it involved nudity and a bit of sex. I didn’t want to blind side my folks and have them end up embarrassed or angry – so I wanted her stamp of approval (or disapproval, if that was the case). My mom was totally cool with it (which is why you get to see it) – but then she asked, “Do you want to know what really happened?”
Mom, being a story-teller herself, started off by telling me the story of Janie, the cat
When mom was a kid, she and a friend found a bedraggled, sickly kitten in the neighborhood. They took the kitten to mom’s house and she asked my grandmother if she could keep it. My grandmother took one look at the mangy creature and emphatically told her there was no way they could keep that cat. But the girls, being tender-hearted, stashed the kitten into a shed in the back yard and named her Janie. They smuggled cans of evaporated milk out of the house in order to feed Janie, risking a certain whipping if they were caught (as the family was super poor and evaporated milk was costly). Several months later, my grandmother was in the yard hanging up some laundry and Janie, now plump, silky, and healthy, escaped from the shed. When she spotted my grandma, she made a beeline for her and rubbed up against her ankles and wound around her feet, purring madly. According to my mom, grandma then told her, “Now, if you had just brought home a kitten like THIS, I would be happy to keep her!” And so, Janie was adopted into the family. My mom and her little sister were the only siblings left in the family by that point – her much older sister and brother had already left the house and were living their own lives – so they took care of and loved Janie. When my mother went to college, she took Janie to her brother’s home, where the cat lived out the rest of her days.
When my grandmother died, the four siblings gathered to split up her meager belongings and to share stories and memories. The subject of Janie came up, and mom’s older sister became incensed, insisting that Janie was and always had been HER cat! Nothing anyone said could change her mind and she became more and more angry that no one agreed with her memories of the situation.
The reason mom told me this story was to illustrate how people can remember things in so many different ways. She explained that what REALLY happened in the telescope story was that, after building the dream house, she and dad had no extra money for luxuries like drapes. None of the windows in the house had them, but they didn’t worry too much about it, as they were so far away from the nearest neighbor. She also told me that it was Bob himself who told them that he had been watching them through his telescope (which makes Bob even creepier than I originally thought – but that is just my perception). She said that after they heard that news, they immediately came home and got all of the spare sheets they could gather and tacked those up to act as drapery until they could afford to get real curtains.
Later that day, I got an email from my mother. She said that she had been talking to my dad about the story and then HE had told HER the REAL story. It turns out that Bob hadn’t had a telescope at all – he had been peering at them through his new rifle scope (Bob just gets more and more creepy).
I found it interesting and kind of hilarious that the three of us had three different memories of the same story. It was kind of like that children’s game, “Telephone” where each kid whispers what is supposed to be the same phase into the ear of the kid next to them. By the time the phrase makes it to the end of the line – it is usually nothing like the original phrase. It makes me wonder how many of my other memories might be slightly (or more) askew. Have you ever had a similar experience – where you and someone else had totally different memories of the same event?