Learning To Love You More




Assignment #4
Start a lecture series.

Jocelyn Nevel
Albuquerque, New Mexico/Columbus, Ohio
Email Jocelyn




Participants will lecture on their earliest memory.
Lecture 1:
Wednesday June 19 2002, 4:00pm
In my parent's living room, refreshments to follow
Lecture 2:
Thursday June 27 2002, 4:00pm
In my parent's living room, refreshments to follow
Invited speakers to include: myself, my parents Jeanne and Bob Nevel, my neighbors Pauline and Ray Carberry, their daughter Kathy and her husband Jason Skestos.
. . .
I have been thinking a lot lately about the reliability or lack of in a photographic portrait, the existence of false memories, and those memories even though the most banal that lie in wait for a trigger that brings them back to life.
On June 19th and the following Thursday we sat down in my parents dinette around a table of snacks including hummus and Ritz crackers. We were my parents (Bob and Jeanne), Ray and Pauline Carberry, and their daughter Kathy and her son Julius. I found myself surrounded by people who have been a part of my life for over twenty some odd years now. In preparation for the lectures I began to realize that I had an opportunity to know these important friends in a deeper way than I had previously. I am very grateful that these people were so generous with their time and memories.
I discussed the lecture series to my participants a number of times in order to assure them of my intention to be casual and spontaneous in their recollections. I tried to let go of any expectations. I prompted everyone a little bit with questions now and then encouraging each to speak at length. At the start of each lecture I took a couple of digital snapshots to document the setting and the mood. During each lecture I took notes from which I will draw the following.
During the first lecture my mother, neighbor Pauline, and her husband Ray spoke about their earliest memories. Jeanne, my mom, spoke first. She attended a one room schoolhouse around the road from her parent's farmhouse. During the first grade my mother read over 200 books and the teacher tallied the count on the bulletin board. Jeanne said that her mother, my grandmother, was so proud of her. Her father was a member of the school board and when the school was closed Jeanne's family acquired a large set of green curtains that had previously divided the stage from the classroom. She and her brother Blaine put them up in the yard and played in front of them.
Ray spoke next. He lived in a house on Broad Street in Conneaut Ohio, near Lake Erie. He was four years old. He remembered looking through a big window while standing on the couch watching the traffic go by. He also fell off of a tricycle at that house. When he was five years old and stood at his mother's side the first grade school teacher walked by and asked if she would be seeing him this year and his mother said no.
When he was in the second grade Ray hid in the cloakroom and decided not to go to school. Eventually the teacher came in and brought him out. In the fourth grade students had spelling bees and hankies were the prize. One of his classmates called the hankies snot rags.
Ray's wife Pauline spoke next. When she was three years old her family moved into a rental unit on Mill Street in Conneaut, Ohio. The house was empty except for a doll left in the corner of the dining room. She still has the doll today and described its dress as the type pre-drawn on the fabric. Over the next few years she used to walk a mile home for lunch with Joyce Giles, sometimes. One winter there had been a bad snowstorm and the principal made cornbread and beans for all the kids. She remembered that her father cooked once, Hungarian goulash. He worked a lot.
When she was five years old Pauline had her tonsils taken out and her grandmother would bring her ice cream every day and it never tasted so good. When the circus came to town they used to set up across the street from her home because her father owned a triangular piece of land. As a result Pauline's family always had free tickets to the circus. She to sit on the porch swing with her uncle Pete naming every kind of car as it passed.
The following Thursday my father (Bob), Kathy, and myself recalled our early memories. Kathy spoke first. She remembered many snapshots beginning with the Xenia, Ohio tornadoes from t.v. There wasa television on top of the fridge and she saw the news report about what had happened. At that time she lived on 14th Avenue. Sometimes, the smell of Vietnamese cooking wafted up from the apartments below where they lived.
Next Kathy reconstructed a memory of the kitchen and laundry of her family's home on 12th Avenue, she was likely three years old. Her parents had a male Chinese friend who taught her how to say one in Chinese (EE). She drove with her father by Riverside Hospital where her father pointed up to a window where her newly born sister and mother were resting.
My father spoke after Kathy and stated with conviction that he was three years and two months old exactly when his mother came down the stairs with a large pregnant stomach. When he saw her next after delivering his younger brother Ray. Bob didn't believe that she was his mother.
The milkman used to drive by and deliver from a horse driven cart and Bob's older brother Dick used to drink the frozen cream out of the bottles left at the doorstep. The kids used to get ice chips to suck on sometimes when the ice was delivered for the freezer in 25, 50, or 75 lb. chunks. He remembered that the ice was crystal clear.
When he was in kindergarten his teacher Ms. Lickliter used to hold writing contests in which the students filled an entire page with As. Once she said that if he and another boy stacked up the chairs very high she would take off her shoes and jump over them. After they stacked the chairs she took off her shoes and jumped over her shoes as she promised she would.
One evening the three brothers were left alone when they lived in Pennsylvania and his father owned a junkyard. Ray was three, Bob was six, and Dick was nine years old. They were sliding down the banister and heard a terrible noise and ran next door out of fear. The oldest brother Dick walked Bob to school one day and he tried to remember exactly how to get back home, left turn out the door, first street turn right, and etc However, when Bob came out of the school he inadvertently left through a different door only to become lost. Fortunately, Dick was waiting around the corner to escort him home.
Finally I began. My earliest memory is rather detailed. I was in kindergarten. My teacher was Mrs. Kottril. She was and is still a rather formidable physical presence. I was playing in the southeast corner of the classroom beneath a styrafoam floor to ceiling model of a t-rex. I recall wondering what might happen if I would pull a bone out of the model, so I did. The entire thing collapsed. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed but, not too much. Mrs. Kottril pointed toward me and asked what had happened. A number of heads turned my way as I struggled to respond that it was my fault.