#5. Wherein I explain who the narrator of my own life is…
I, Isabel Scheherazade, am 13-years old. Still a kid, technically; but what I’m writing is not-just-for-kids. Parts of my story is “for mature audiences” as they say. In fact, the movie rating for this memoir of mine wouldn’t be “G” or even “PG.” The reviewers would say it’s “edgy” and maybe give it one of those “parental warnings” for violence and death.
(My old school once tried to ban “A Day No Pigs Will Die.” We protested to the school board; that’s how I know about this stuff.)
My dad was writing a memoir with his high school Freshmen. (He’ll never finish it, BTW.) I asked him, “How do you decide which stories?”
“I write the stories that will still ring a bell in my heart when I’m 99,” he says.
How’s that for a not-really-an-answer answer? But now that I’ll never see him again I get it. My mind and heart throb with my stories. They’re seared into me and making a sound in my heart and mind every minute.
This is what happened. I’m going to write it quick and then throw up.
Mom and Dad were killed.
A guy in a truck ran a stop light; my parents swerved to avoid him and rolled over and over down this steep hill.
They wouldn’t let us see Mom and Dad after the accident. This means that the last time I saw them was about 5 PM. Mimi and Pop (my grandparents) had come over to babysit for date night. I was on our front porch in my PJ’s, electric- tooth brushing while telling Dad that Pop and I were going to play Settlers of Catan.
So, I didn’t even give them a good night kiss.
Since that night, me, Clyde, Sam (they’re twins) and Mimi and Pop sip and gulp from this Huge Cup of Sorrow.
I notice, though, even on the worst days I see OVER the lip of the cup a tiny bit. It’s because I’m trying to write to understand what’s happening. I’m trying to hold myself together by grabbing at words.
Stories jump up and down to get my attention.
I’m like this lady Pop told me about. She thinks someone is trying to poison her, so pretty soon, since she expects it, all her food begins to taste funny. Because I’m on the look-out for stories that will shed light, I find them. All around me. Just waiting for me to pick them up.
My memories are organized like our minivan (the one that rolled down the embankment.) Before it got squashed, it had three rows of seats, but, we used this van differently from other families.
I’ve got stories about what’s happening Right This Minute: The front seat memories. They’re full of our life With Mimi and Pop, school, neighbors, every day kinds of stuff. Some big. Some little.
I’ve got stories of Mom and Dad’s car crash: That’s the middle row o seats. But most times it’s like that row is turned down for storage. In our family we used that middle section for storage because the twins’ huge double stroller didn’t fit in the usual back door storage area. So all three of us kids sat in the third row of seats, me in between two car seats full of noisy boys. Tight and gooey.
Back to the middle row. You know how you can press a lever to fold and turn the seat cushions so they’re out of sight? That’s how it is with the crash day memories. Out of sight. Usually.
Then there’s our whole life with Mom and Dad. Before. It’s like they’re just sitting in the way back seat of my memory, waiting for me to notice them.
So, here goes. This is the story of our first few months–After. You’ll see how memories and stories jump out of the way back and into the front.
And sometimes plunk right into the middle.
Scheherazade was a very good storyteller, the only virgin to survive, right? And end up a Queen.
Scheherazade is the poster queen for the power of stories to keep me afloat. And not just reading and hearing stories. I’m finding that writing them—even though I get carried away and begin to “fashion the text” a bit too much maybe—is keeping me afloat too.
My parents named me for the girl who saved herself by telling her otherwise murderous king husband great stories. Scheherazade had to charm this awful, wife-killing man. This king—who sure doesn’t sound like a king or husband anyone would CHOOSE to have, but I don’t think Scheherazade had a choice—this king got tired of his wives right away. (Who knows why, but back then kings could do whatever they wanted, at least in stories.) He would marry them and then kill them after the first night.
Scheherazade tells the king amazing stories, captivates him, and he doesn’t kill her. I have no idea whether or not Scheherazade loved the king, but she sure knew how to stay healthy. Remember the story about Aladdin? Well, that’s one of the 1001 stories she told.
I don’t know anything else about this king, but the name “Scheherazade” means good story teller. Like I’m trying to be. Catching and writing the stories for this memoir will make me live up to my middle name. And maybe keep my parents alive somewhere?