I Remember

I Remember


After Joe Brainard

Collage featuring a photograph of two blond children captioned ‘the twins on baptism day’ in the foreground; news clippings, snapshots, and other memorabilia in the background.

I remember burying the seeds every time I ate an apple. They never grew into apple trees.

I remember going to the airport for fun.

I remember, on Thompson Street, the moment they called the 2020 presidential race.

I remember the way my childhood home smelled when it was completely empty.

I remember the sky-blue Honda Odyssey that moved me through my entire childhood. Who was anyone (in Michigan) without their mini vans?

I remember the first time I held hands with a boy, and not knowing if I should hold his palm or intertwine our fingers. (Sometimes I still wonder.)

I remember my first time in New York City. A man on the street asked me to come back to his place. I was twelve years old.

I remember, age eight, not wanting to attend my own baptism.

I remember, at our family farm in Ohio, refusing to hug my great aunt. (She had shingles.)

I remember, with my cousins, playing hide-and-seek in the chapel during her funeral.

I remember writing to Obama and asking him to change the school rules so that we could chew gum in class (as if it were a pressing national issue and not at the sole discretion of my fourth grade teacher.)

I remember the first time I got sleep paralysis. I heard Dean Martin singing in the distance.

I remember working nights at the movie theater until 3:00 a.m.

I remember a long conversation with my manager. He told me to go on Zoloft.

I remember, after school, going to Sam’s Club and eating free samples for dinner.

I remember the food pantry they held out of the church truck every Wednesday. I remember getting milk and bread from that truck.

I remember, in elementary school, bragging about being on the free lunch program as if it was a luxury.

I remember lying in my temple recommend interview.

I remember hiding in the bathroom to avoid going to Sunday school.

I remember thinking downtown Grand Rapids was “the city.”

I remember hiding my impurity under the guise of inherited Mormon innocence.

I remember being radicalized by Dickens.

I remember, in third grade, deciding to go by “Lizzie.”

I remember being referred to exclusively as “the twins,” as if we were not individual people but a collective.

I remember the only family tradition we ever had was watching American Idol.

I remember thinking that the Ford dealership on Twenty-Eighth Street was where American Idol was filmed (the logos were all too similar for my young brain).

I remember dreaming about a life in New York City. (Still, on the bad days, I remind myself that I am living in a dream.) I remember an odd satisfaction in realizing that I am exactly who my twelve-year-old self wanted to be.

I remember telling everybody in my class that my dad was in jail, like it was a fun fact. Nobody ever asked why.

I remember when school closed down because of swine flu. It felt like the end of the world. We went back to school a few days later and the only thing that had changed was the mandated hand sanitizing.

I remember when the end of the world actually came. Seven billion lives collapsed at once.

I remember, on Zoom meetings, talking about Tiger King.

I remember loving the smell of coffee. (But did I love it because of the scent, or because it was forbidden?)

I remember singing “I Am A Child of God” at every baptism I’ve ever attended.

I remember, in the downstairs cupboard, the Blu-ray copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that was hidden for years.

I remember stealing the little plastic cups from sacrament meeting. I collected them in my room as a twisted tribute to the life I disdained.

I remember a guy telling me he could only get off if he imagined he was taking advantage of me. I still dated him for a year.

I remember (crying) walking across the Williamsburg Bridge.

I remember (crying) taking the Amtrak home from Chicago alone.

I remember (crying) when my sister spilled applesauce all over my favorite GameCube controller.

I remember learning the term “foot fetish,” and saying it in my third grade English class.

I remember being alone on my birthday.

I remember sneaking into luxury hotel restrooms. (My favorite was the one at The Watergate.)

I remember going to church hungover.

I remember when mom’s BlackBerry got ruined in the rain.

I remember when all I wanted for Christmas was a pair of sneakers that laced up to my knees.

I remember running errands with mom just so I could get an Orange Julius at the mall.

I remember the brown bread at Outback Steakhouse, and thinking it was only for special occasions. My brother called it “chocolate bread.”

I remember spraining my wrist after falling off the couch. I fell because I laughed too hard at Shrek 2.

I remember the worst date I’ve ever been on. He took me to a French restaurant in Williamsburg and told me that if Rudy Giuliani hadn’t been mayor, we wouldn’t be sitting there.

I remember, as kids, when mom made us watch Poltergeist.

I remember the people that came into school and told us that chocolate was a drug. I vowed to never eat it again. (I lasted one week.)

I remember asking my brother if he, too, couldn’t see if he closed one eye. (Turns out I’m just blind in one eye.)

I remember the Christmas tree at the Amway Grand Plaza. I thought it was the biggest one in the world.

I remember faking sick so mom would take me to work with her. They had a hot chocolate machine and a TV with all the channels.

I remember the way the Grand Rapids Skywalk smelled like a swimming pool.

I remember when they changed the name to Biggby Coffee.

I remember the only high school dance I ever went to. I left after thirty minutes.

I remember drive-through graduation (barely).

I remember drive-through Covid testing.

I remember drive-throughs during late-night road trips, and wondering if they ever closed—even on Christmas.

I remember the endings to movies I never watched.

I remember the night we met.

I remember Gerald R. Ford’s funeral.

I remember the house on Shiloh Point Drive. The morning that I came downstairs to leave for school and saw it burning through the kitchen window. I remember the first time I called 911. I never looked out that window again.

I remember the way the ruins of the house on Shiloh Point sat there for weeks across the backyard, abandoned. It was a pile of ash but you could still see the framework of the house, as if its skeleton were exposed.

I remember the haunted house next door. The sidewalk changed color as you approached it (the evidence).

I remember thinking that George Washington and Albert Einstein lived around the same time.

I remember the sound of my childhood best friend’s laugh.

I remember (almost) every boy I’ve kissed.

I remember (recently) cracking my phone on the A train.

I remember, on the Fourth of July, watching fireworks from the top of the McKay Tower.

I remember how out of place I felt when I visited the Temple. (Probably because I lied in the interview.)

I remember being fascinated by the tabloid headlines every time I went to Meijer.

I remember the free cookies they gave away at Meijer.

I remember, even as a child, feeling lonely.

I remember the sign that hung in our living room that said, “Families Are Forever.” (How ironic it was.)

I remember our house on Shiloh Pines and the big willow tree we planted out back. Naturally, we named it “Willow.” It was the only thing that outlived our family’s tenure in that house.

I remember, in 2008, when our house was foreclosed. My mom told me we moved because of “the problem with the bees.”

I remember having to memorize the Articles of Faith. I only ever got the second one. “Men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions.”

I remember, in Eastown, catching the city bus right outside the antique store. Riding the bus made me feel like an adult.

I remember staring at the Jersey skyline from the Hudson River pier. It looked like a cardboard cutout; a simulated city. I felt like I could kick it and it would topple over. Manhattan has an encapsulating way of making you feel skeptical of the world outside it.

I remember, on the rare occasion that I went to church, people that I swore I’d never met telling me that I’d “grown up so much.”

I remember sneaking in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants while sleeping over at friend’s houses (those with more permissive parents.)

I remember bringing a gallon of chocolate milk to my sister when we visited her at the Pine Rest Hospital.

I remember when hotel swimming pools were at the top of my hierarchy of needs.

I remember “I’m not free, but who wants to be?”

I remember the videotape of my parents’ wedding. Their first dance was to “Beauty and the Beast.” It was such perfect foreshadowing that I almost felt like it had to have been edited.

I remember Box Tops collection contests.

I remember Jump Rope for Heart.

I remember pizza parties.

I remember Pennies for Haiti.

I remember knock-off UGG boots to fit in with the girls at school.

I remember using the sand piles at the construction sites of houses in our neighborhood as a playground.

I remember “pajamas inside-out and backward.”

I remember spoons under the pillow.

I remember ice cubes in the toilet.

I remember the woman across the street and how both of her children had died but she still lived in that house. I wondered how she did it.

I remember being told not to walk on Forest Hills Avenue because there was no sidewalk.

I remember weekend trips to Greenfield Village.

I remember all the abandoned buildings in Detroit.

I remember thinking of Joseph Smith not as a person that lived but as a mythological figure. Like Poseidon.

I remember, in Chicago, sleeping through Wicked. 

I remember meeting Rick Snyder and asking him for more snow days.

I remember living on Lexington Avenue and watching the same people cross the same streets at the same time each morning. I remember how intensely this genre of hyper-observant people watching in New York made me feel like I was in The Truman Show. There’s an unsettling reckoning in these familiarities, like repeating your transaction with the same barista every day. I remember realizing that, maybe, the city is just as simulated as the paper Jersey skyline across the river.

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