Revisiting the Tomb of Youth

It is the same with everything in the room. What once were his became his daughters, his daughter’s became my mother’s, and now, this living piece of history became mine. It’s all living history, that is. A flaking door, a squeaking floor board. A hint of lemon Pine-Sol and the tickle of dust on the nares. Walk towards the twin sized bunk beds, gently run your fingertips over the top of Pop’s ancient handcrafted dresser. Feel each grove, each indentation in the soft-as-clay 70-year-old hand-me-down. Hear the clinking together of cheap medals won in events long past: Mar vista Park field hockey championship, Ladera Park baseball semi-finalists, St. Sebastian “B-Team” runners-up. An extremely rough, but somehow comforting Lakeshore-brand train-set play-rug occupies the floor. Sit on the lowest bunk; enjoy the low, groaning rumble that escapes from the confines of the floppy, worn mattress. As you have aged, so too has your bed. Finger gouges on its 18-year old frame. Hold your gaze on the speckled sun shafts penetrating in from the small window near the room’s multi-purposed media center. Rise, strongly, boldly, and with confidence, careful not to bump your head yet again on that same damned two-inch space of tired cedar. Wander helplessly towards your old desk. Note how those pencil scratches still tattoo that wobbly assembly of birch and metal. Faded, but there nonetheless. Husks of feelings felt long ago stir deep inside. Nostalgia laps at that churning pit tucked below, or behind, or to the left of, the gastrointestinal regions. The tickling bliss of internal Monarchs from your first crush. Jagged spikes of frustration from those countless nights of tears dealt by the tyrannical hands of ADD and visual sequencing difficulties. Shoulder-sagging, joy-crushing disappointment from the times in which you just wanted to be heard. Embrace them all. The desktop is a battleground-turned-monument of countless hours lost to listless daydreaming and youthful pondering. Turn on the television and watch your hairs stand on end.

Refocus your glazed eyes, step towards the center of the room. The times when you buried your face in Big Gram’s knitted quilt, the times when you so badly wanted to slice for efficiency, the times when you couldn’t see anything but red. The times when Mother’s pounding footsteps pounded something more than just the hardwood floor. The times when you would hide the Gameboy Color SP cleverly under your pillow, mere milliseconds before maternal wrath rained from the heavens. Whoosh, crack, tears: that wooden paddle’s bite, followed by the sibling’s vibrato ring in ear. Tirades, vast in multitudes, blend, leaving only the memory of the tone of father’s guttural rage. Recount the times in which you and your little brother entertained each other: climbing so high and plummeting so fast from the orange tree, heroically preventing the senile Mr. Irwin from defecating on your lawn by means of thrown,  “fresh picked” lemons. Even recall when the two of you (aged 5 & 7) created your very own monster truck rally using only an awesome “Grandmother Inc.” remote-control 4×4, a blanket, four pillows, and mom’s emergency flashlight.

Everything, everything, happened in that room. In that house. Now, it sits empty. Papa’s voice still ringing through the echoing halls, bringing you back from your own inner realm of oblivion. Unlock your now stiff knees, turn to seal your childhood away for good, wave. And for a second, for a slight second, it feels as if the monster that you could’ve sworn lived under your bed for all those years, waved back.


  1. Wow. That was at times gut-wrenching, and also wonderfully filled with bittersweet nostalgia. Longings to stay (and be heard) as well as those glad-to-get-aways were clearly visible (and heard). One could not read this piece by the author and not be incredibly touched/moved with emotion. Excellent.


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