Friday, March 15, 2013

My Earliest Memory

Spring 1975.

There was a park, just down the hill from our apartment. It was a typical neighborhood park. There were swings. This was when parks still had swings -- in 1975 we weren't afraid of our shadows. There were slides. They were the shiny, silver, metal slides. The kind of slides that seared your legs, and lit your pants on fire, on a hot summer day. And there was a big ladder made out of tires.

On this day, my brother Scott had taken me to play at the park. I was two and he was seven.

The scene opens in my mind, next to the swing set.

I don't know if we were coming or going from the park, but I remember the crunch of the gravel under my shoes, as I walked. This was before playgrounds had soft rubber pellets or shredded bark on the ground. On the tire ladder, there were two guys -- climbing, lounging, tripping(?) I'm not sure what they were doing. Suddenly there was a german shepherd. A VERY big german shepherd, and it was coming right at me. And then it bit me. More precisely, it bit my pants.

Scott put himself between me and the dog. At the same moment the two geniuses on the tire ladder -- who let their german shepherd run loose around a park full of toddlers -- started yelling down at us. They were saying that everything was okay, that the dog was nice, that he wouldn't hurt me. As far as I can recall, they never actually came down and got the dog. I'm sure they called it off, but the damage was done. I was traumatized. For the next ten years, not only was I deathly afraid of all dogs, but I was REALLY afraid of dogs biting my pants.

Scott took me up the green, grassy hill and through the gate that led to our apartment. Then the memory fades to a bright white light.

The memory recalls probably no more than five minutes of my life. But it was five minutes of my life with my big brother.

Scott died that summer.

He was being chased on his bicycle, by some older boys, and frantically rode out onto a very busy street in Salt Lake City. He was hit by a car, and died three days later. In 1975, we didn't wear bike helmets either.

I know what Scott looked like. Scott had large brown eyes, and straight brown hair. I've seen pictures. But I have no memory of his face. I know him from the waist down. That's how tall I was in the Spring of 1975. I remember his knees and his shoes.

And I remember his left hand because it was holding tightly to my right hand. That hand was keeping me safe. That strong hand led me home.

I have no other memories of Scott.

I will always be grateful to that german shepherd, and those two morons on the tire ladder and for the first traumatic experience in my life, because it seared the moment into my memory. And if you only get to have one memory of your big brother, it should be a memory of a big brother doing what a big brother is supposed to do.

4 comments:

Tera said...

This one made my heart hurt. But I loved it at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

sallygirl said...

Chris, you are such a talented writer. Have you ever thought about doing freelance for a magazine or a weekly column for a local paper? I hope this sounds the way I mean it to (which is to say that it's meant to be a compliment), you are totally the male Erma Bombeck.

Emily said...

I agree with Tera. Beautiful story and heartbreaking at the same time.

Angela Maddock said...

I remember when I found out you had an older brother and how totally blown away I was! I was sad for you and your family. I have never forgotten Scott even though I never knew him. I would have like to have grown up with him on Woodchuck. Great memory of your big brother!!