There were very few moments of uninterrupted happiness in my life, especially as a kid. Stress was such a normal state of being that even now in much more peaceful times of my young life, it kinda seems like I am just waiting on the ball to drop. I did however get lucky and ended up going to a really great high school, which I can honestly say is, besides my sisters the sole reason I didn’t kill myself before I turned 20. My first year at this school I got to go on a trip to Italy and France, which I busted my ass to get to, and owe alotta people thanks for helping to facilitate.
The reason this particular moment stands out in my mind as clearly as the day my youngest sister was born. Which to my 9 year old horror I witnessed, and have since, recalled that memory as my primary form of birth control, pure unadulterated fear of birth is a good way to remember preventative methods ya’ll…
So what had happened was, I was fifteen and a few days into this trip, when we went to Florence and stayed in a cute little villa hotel about 45mins outside of the city. Now it was mid January so the weather in the Mediterranean, and during the time we were there was rain. So much rain that one of the girls on the trip, who had made the uniformed decision to wear moccasins spent the whole evening skating and falling on the cobblestones that pave the streets of Florence. Poor dear. That night we and by we I mean all of us on the trip with the exception of like two people crammed into one room to hang out. Because it was raining we couldn’t sit outside on the super nice patio, which to a bunch of teenagers, is kind of a bummer. So instead we brought the two patio umbrellas in all crammed on the two beds and opened them up above our heads. We spent the next hour horsing around a giggling like toddlers, so much so we did have a teacher come check on us, look in and decide it wasn’t worth reprimanding us. It mattered because that 10 day trip and that maybe hour of silliness was one of the last pure and uninhibited or regulated moments of my life. I had no fear of someone coming in to scream at me, I didn’t have to worry about trying to fall asleep early enough so I could get up, help my sisters get ready and walk myself to school. I didn’t have to worry about work, which was an actual concern I had, had since I was 13. I just got to do some regular kid shit, which I pretty much missed out on, or only had as brief stolen moments.
About 3 and a half months later my Uncle Mike, my godfather, and my dad’s best friend was shot and killed, about six blocks away from a house we moved into for the duration of my high school days. That summer followed my great grandmother Mom-Mom, that November my Grandpa Chris and with his death a lengthy and painful trial over my inheritance of his estate. It was a shit time, but I remembered what it felt like under that umbrella, and when I spaced out that’s where I went, to a moment without complications.
This piece is for those people. Especially my Uncle Mike who has been gone 8 years to the day, who’s work was published in a small book at his university. I made it to his graduation, for his Masters degree in English, though he did not. Walked for my high school graduation with his tassel. He showed up late to my parents secret wedding. Traveled the world, and still remained kind and geniune, even though I was a fairly annoying little shit of a kid. I wore his graduation sash under my clothes my last day of college classes, a degree for which I did not walk, but I knew he woulda been there. We both have degrees in English
The books I found in the trunk of your van gave me small umbrella moments, in a life awash with floods and I am ready for more of both. But I am hoping for more under the umbrella moments so to speak. RIP Michael John Thomas.
“To make the world. To make it again and again. To make it in the very maelstrom of its undoing.”
― Cormac McCarthy,