To all who celebrate!
The clutter got to me. It’s been a weight on my shoulders—and worse, in my mind. So I’ve been tackling it, sorting through “sacred” items that turned out to be not very sacred at all. But it’s been a journey of memories and feelings. I’d like to share one small view to show how radical I got this time around.
There’s a built-in cabinet in my foyer (that’s hallway to people out of New York City) and it became a convenient place to dump things, mostly things that belonged in my utilities closet:
As is my tradition, I’m repeating this post:
When I was ten years old, I saw a paperback on the coffee table in the living room and asked my brother if I could read it. He never looked up from his newspaper. “Sure.”
I was halfway through and just about to put it down (because my ten-year-old self found it boring), when my mom came in, saw what I was reading, and blasted my brother for it.
I made it through the semester! That may not seem like a big deal to some, but as someone who hadn’t attended college in a long time and chose both foreign language and anthropology classes, this was huge.
The foreign language class is the one that almost did me in. It was a lot of work. In the end, I felt swamped and stressed. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair that I ended up with the Freshmen 15 (those pesky 15 pounds that attach to your body because there’s no time or energy to cook decent food).
My father thought science fiction, fantasy, and horror were silly. He just didn’t get them, though he had a huge appreciation for folklore even if it verged on the fantastical. He was a practical man. He ran his own business, took care of all the repairs around the house himself, and didn’t have the patience for dippy interests.
Still, he was playful, and he may have accidentally pushed open a door I was already peeking around as a child.
I was an early reader. A young child’s mind that is unfolding to the world is fertile ground for the wonder of books, stories, fables, and magical illustrations. Kids have the equivalent of alluvial soil in their heads, all loamy and rich and waiting for stuff to plant itself. So I was already inclined a certain way, you might say, when this thing I’m about to tell you happened.
I was maybe nine years old. We’d just moved to a new house. On summer nights we’d sit on the front porch to catch a breeze under the trees. But on this particular muggy evening we were inside, in the kitchen my father was installing, and he turned to me suddenly and said, “Why don’t you go see if I’m out on the porch?”
I remember my momentary freeze as I processed his words.
“Go ahead. See if I’m sitting out there. Then come back and tell me.”
I was old enough to understand it was impossible, and yet . . . he was my dad. Who knew what kind of powers he might actually have, or what kind of secrets surrounded us all? At that moment I realized how much I didn’t know about the world.
I hesitated. “You can’t be out there and in here at the same time.” I knew I was right, and yet . . .
“Are you sure?”
I nodded. He broke into a grin and pulled me in for a hug.
Today’s nine-year-olds would be too sophisticated for that fleeting pause, you might think, and you might be right. But as I look back on that moment, I see it as a burning hole blown wide open, full of what ifs and maybes, alternate universes and cosmic mysteries, things unexplainable on a purely physical plane. The fodder of speculative fiction, brought to me by a father who didn’t like speculative fiction.
Years later I’d have a recurring dream in which a silhouette in a coat and a man’s hat would appear in the shadows of the porch on a foggy night, and I would run terrified away from the door. The man was not my father, and the dream not directly connected to my father’s joke, but the portal had been opened.
Thanks, Dad. I love you and miss you terribly.
Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin writes speculative fiction and poetry. Her stories have appeared in the four Penhead anthologies (most recently Colors: Stories in 5 Shades), Supernatural Tales, Luna Station Quarterly, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and other publications. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Carrie has published poetry in Third Wednesday, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, Grasslimb, and other places. She is author of the horror novel Snare and a member of the Horror Writers Association. You can find her at cvnelkin.com, on Twitter at @cvnelkin, and on Facebook (Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, Author).