Night Intruders

The new year has brought a number of new activites into my path, among them a series of exercises from Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. I have already enjoyed from years past her recommendations of the Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date. But now, for retirees, she recommends writing a memoir. Over the twelve-week period, the activity prescribes dividing our lives by years into twelve segments, and then fleshing out one per week.

For a long time now, I have wanted to write my memoir, particularly the early years, while Mom and Dad are still living. Since I am the oldest child, there is no one else in my family that could answer questions surrounding the sketchy vignettes of my earliest memories. I phoned Mom a couple of evenings ago to find out all the places we lived during my first six years, since that was a migratory period in our family life. Dad, a few years after his return from Army service in Korea, made the decision to leave southeast Missouri and seek more lucrative employment in St. Louis. I was eighteen months old. Over the next five years, we would live in three different places in St. Louis, then move on to Fention, then two places in High Ridge, then on to House Springs, and finally back to High Ridge to live in the home where they still reside. Eight residences in my first six years.

I am now recording a memory I’ve never been able to shake, and have spoken about only a few times to trusted friends. Mom and Dad don’t even know about this. While living in an apartment on Southwest Avenue, I was young enough that I slept between my parents at night. Later, I would have to sleep alone in a baby bed. I remember waking in the middle of the night between them, and listening to their heavy breathing. As I lay there, caravans of tiny wagon trains loaded with various objects would move silently over my blankets. Reaching out to them, I picked up the objects in the wagons, and in my fingers they always distorted and collapsed into ugly masses. Everything I touched turned to ruin. In all my years as a developing artist, I have thought and re-thought those themes of creation and destruction: creation from out of destruction as well as destruction following creation.

As I fingered these small objects, I would suddenly hear something, and already knowing what I was going to see (because this happened many, many times), I would look up at our bedroom window. Every night, Mom drew the curtains shut before bedtime, but now they were wide open, and behind the darkened glass, blinking eyes peered at me. Every time they blinked, they made a snapping sound. A husky voice called out of the darkness: “What are you doing?” And then, looking to the right, at our closed bedroom door, the voice would call out: “Open the door.” Again and again, the voice questioned and commanded while I cried, wishing my parents would awaken and chase the eyes away. I never understood how Mom and Dad could sleep through that commotion, and why they were unable to awaken and save me from that terror. Finally, as most agree that dreams are accompanied by some kind of non sequitur: a brightly-colored beach ball would come bouncing into the scene from the right and come to rest next to the blinking eyes. And then the scene of terror was over.

It feels good finally to write this. Throughout my years I have thought over the themes of creation, destruction, and opening doors to what lies beyond. I am still searching for some kind of meaning.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.



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10 Responses to “Memoirs”

  1. Dian Darr Says:

    What an interesting experience! You will probably need a session with Freud to understand such an interesting experience. I am so glad you are writing your memoirs. I just finished re-writing mine, and I would love to share a copy with you. It was a totally cathartic undertaking. At first, I wasn’t sure I would remember much, but as I wrote, memories flooded the page. I am, now, more grateful than ever, for my upbringing which is such a comfort during the challenges I am now facing. (Not sure if this makes sense).


    • davidtripp Says:

      I’ve wanted to ask how it was going with your writing. When you were worked on your memoirs I knew more certainly I was getting closer to taking my own step in that direction.


  2. Dian Darr Says:

    Tried to edit the words “interesting experience” that I used twice. Couldn’t figure out how to do it!!


  3. Dian Says:

    I finished the re-write a few days ago. I am editing and getting ready to print.


  4. jonnietootling Says:

    Haunting experience, David. I wonder how many children have nightmares they never share with their parents — or anyone else. I remember as a grade-school-aged girl having a recurring dream where I was on a bridge that collapsed; fell to another bridge below that collapsed; and so on. Who knows the meaning — something about the insecurity youth, which strikes me odd. I felt very secure in a family and extended family that treated me with adoration.


  5. Sandra Conner Says:

    I can understand why you would want to seek for clarification of such a recurring dream. I’ve had a few recurring dreams as an adult, but never anything quite so dramatic. As a writing teacher, I’m glad to hear that you are writing your memoir. I hope it goes well for you and that you enjoy the whole experience. It’s also interesting to learn that you are from the same part of the country I’m from. I was born in Southern Illinois and lived several other places over the year, but I’m back in Southern Illinois now. I live only about 2 hours southeast of St. Louis and have a nephew who resides there currently with his family.


  6. Skeeter Murley Says:

    David, Next time I see you, I’ll have to share a similar recurring “nightmare” experience I had as a child. I’ve always wondered what it meant, but always felt odd sharing it. Maybe finally sharing it with someone will help me figure it out.


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