By Kelly Wallace
Hawthorne Fellow 2012
Kelly Wallace has been working on a memoir manuscript tentatively titled "The Yellow Blanket" since 2010. She blogs about her experience at kellywawa.wordpress.com.
“Kelly, some of the things I need to ask you about is, where does your Daddy live right now?”
“And last year did he live in Pendleton, also?”
“Where did he live then?”
Dad lived in an apartment just like Mommy, Katie and me. His apartment was all white. It was cold when we went to see him and the snow outside made everything cold. Daddy had his black travel bag in the bathroom. It had a razor, toothbrush and aftershave in a green bottle that smelled strong. Daddy had to shave everyday cause his whiskers grew fast.
“Okay. And after he moved to Ontario, where did he move to?”
“Did he live by himself or with someone else?”
“He lived by himself.”
“Did he ever – where does his mother and father live?”
“What kind of a place do they have there, was that in the city or country?”
Grampa and Gramma Opal Wallace lived in a mint green house out in the country at the base of the Blue Mountains. Outside it smelled like wheat bread and dirt. Grampa was a wheat and cattle farmer.
There were a bunch of black and brown cows in fields around the house.
Those cows scared me.
Gramma Opal was a nurse. She worked in a nursing home in Walla Walla. She worked late in the afternoon and came home late at night when I was asleep with Grampa in bed.
“Okay. Where does your mother’s parents live, your grandparents on your mother’s side?”
We stayed at Grammie and Grampa’s house one time when Mommy and Daddy were married. They had these accents and it was sometimes hard to understand what they said. Mommy doesn’t have one for some reason. She says hers went away when she moved here. When we went to visit Grammie and Grampa my aunt Lynn and Uncle Terry came up from Massachusetts and they made lobsters in these big grey pots on the stove.
“Do you talk to them by telephone?”
“When was the last time you got to see them?”
“Probably when I was about five.”
“It’s been a long time?”
When I was there Grammie read me a story before bedtime. We sat in a rocking chair and rocked back and forth, back and forth as she read to me under a bright light. I had my thumb in my mouth with my yellow blanky. All I remember was the close. I could tell Grammie loved me. The next morning Grampa made me pancakes and Grammie let me have as much syrup as I wanted.
“Now, you talked about this Thanksgiving at the restaurant. I need to ask you then where you spent Thanksgiving a year ago, can you remember back that far?”
We had Thanksgiving at Grampa and Gramma Opals house. They had two dining rooms. One was nice and they hardly ever used it. The other dining room was the one where Grampa sat in the morning, looked out the window at the cows, smoked cigarettes and drank coffee.
They used the nice dining room and got out the drop leafs for the dining room table. There was this painting with some fruit in a bowl but it had this black background. The nice dining room was packed with aunts, uncles and cousins. It smelled like turkey and cigarettes.
“At – umm – my grandfather’s house.”
“And that’s the one in Umapine?”
“And how did you get there for Thanksgiving?”
“And who drove the car?”
“Did he come to Salem to pick you up?”
“And your sister, too?”
“And did he do that quite a bit that year?”
Dad would come and get me and Katie at night time in Keizer. He would drive a long time and come and get us and then we would all drive back to Gramma Opal and Grampa’s house in Umapine.
It took a long time.
And it was always dark.
Katie would fall asleep after a little while because she was good at falling asleep in cars. Not me. I was wide awake staring out the window at the black and lights on the freeway.
“Do you remember how many times? I know you can’t remember every single one, but talk about like a summer or a year, do you remember how many times you came over and visited your Daddy?”
“Was it more than two or three times?”
“Where did you stay each time that you came over to visit?”
“Where did you stay each time that you came over to visit your Daddy?”
“At his house in Umapine – no, not – in Ontario.”
“Then after he moved over here, where would you stay when you came over to visit?”
“My grandparent’s house.”
“Okay. And you said you remember coming over this Thanksgiving for sure, is that right?”
“Okay. Now, Kelly, what I need to do is ask you about – and I need to talk to you about your Grandfather starting doing some things to you that you didn’t like.”
“Has your mother talked to you about the word that you described in your body parts?”
“Do you know what word to use, can you tell the jury the first thing your Grandfather doing to you?”
“Sticking his finger in my vagina.”
“Where would you be when that took place?”
“In his bed.”
“What kind of bed does he have?”
“Did you like to sleep in that waterbed?”
“And who else slept in that waterbed besides your grandparents?”
Gramma Opal, Grampa and me all slept in the same bed. The room smelled like old cigarettes from Grampa’s ashtray. Grampa said he smoked Marlboros because that’s what they smoked in the Navy in World War II. He joined the Navy when he was seventeen.
He snuck in because you have to be older to get in.
When I was in the waterbed with Gramma and Grampa it was Grampa on the left, Gramma in the middle and me on the right.
Grampa usually got up before everyone and went to the informal dining room to drink coffee, look out the window and smoke.
We let Gramma Opal sleep in because she worked late. Gramma Opal worked the swing shift. It’s 3 pm to 11 pm. The red satin sheets were pulled up high around her shoulders. Katie and Daddy slept in Aunt Marianne’s old bedroom down the hall.
That’s how it was.
Adults sleeping with kids at Grampa and Gramma Opals house. Aunt Marianne was away at college so she only came around every once in a while.
I liked Gramma Opal. She bought me candy bars and let me climb up on her lap with my yellow blanky to read stories together in the living room. I read stories that Mrs. Snyder, my second grade teacher gave us to read at home. I read to her because I was learning how to read bigger words than we did in first grade. After I finished reading I would suck my thumb and bring my yellow blanky up close to my face and smell it.
Mommy didn’t seem to mind that I sucked my thumb. I always slept with my yellow blanky from Sears - the kind that you buy in these packages in the baby section. Mommy said they’re receiving blankets. I always slept with my blanky. I didn’t take it to school or out shopping. I just liked having it with me at home.
“Okay. Does she have a job away from the farm?”
“Can you tell me what it is?”
“She’s a nurse.”
“Do you know what town she works in?”
“Walla Walla, Washington.”
“Do you know what time she gets home from work, Kelly?”
“Is that lunch time or at midnight?”
“And when you stayed there, what time would you usually go to bed?”
“About nine or nine-thirty.”
“And what bed would you get into?”
“Was he - - what time did he go to bed?”
“So he would be in bed before you would go to bed?”
“And then would you grandma come and get in bed, too?”
“Were you awake when she would get home sometimes?”
Sometimes I woke up when she came home and I would follow her into the closet while she changed into her nightie. We would be extra quite because Grandpa was sleeping. She would take off her white nurses shoes and pull on her long sleeved white nightie with ruffles at the top. She took off her underwear and put it in the laundry basket.
“Why don’t you wear underwear to bed Gramma Opal?” I whispered and was careful not to wake Grampa.
“So I can air myself out,” she whispered back. “Ready for bed?” she asked.
“Sometimes you were all asleep?”
“And what about in the morning, what about when you would wake up, who would be in bed then?”
“And where would you your grandfather be?”
“In the chair by the window in the kitchen?”
Grampa sat at the fake “oak” table by the window. There were the Marlboro Reds, plain, white book of matches and brown ashtray full of cigarette butts sit at his fingertips. A cup of coffee sat next to the brown ashtray. He was in his checked western style shirt with the pearl looking buttons.
“Does he get up earlier than your grandmother does?”
“And earlier than you do?”
One of Grampa’s attorneys got up and asked me questions. The young one pushed his chair back and it made a “schreech” sound. He had blond hair. I didn’t like him as much as I liked Ken. Mommy said it was a son and his Dad who were working together. Ken said Grandpa’s attorneys would probably ask questions that mixed me up.
He walked towards me and stopped a few steps from the witness stand.
“Kelly, my name is Michael Collins. I do not think we have met before, have we?” A chair scraped against the floor and made this harsh sound.
“No.” I said.
“And you do not know who I am?” he pointed to himself.
I nodded my head “no” and it was like he wanted to trick me. That’s what Mommy said Grampa’s attorneys would do.
“Kelly, you need to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the court reporter,” the judge said.
“Ok,” I got that weird feeling in my tummy again like I was in big trouble. I didn’t like to be in trouble because it usually meant a spanking. He might yell at me and that seemed scarier than jail.
“Am I a lawyer – do you know what a lawyer is?” he asked. He had tan skin and blue eyes.
“Yes,” tried to keep my eyes on the clock again.
“And your daddy is a lawyer, isn’t he?” The little hand was on the twelve and the big on the three.
“Yes,” and I thought about the time Daddy took me to a courtroom to show me what he did.
“And Mr. Hadley’s a lawyer?” The courtroom Daddy took me to wasn’t as big as that one.
“Yes,” the tops of my ears got hot and there was a ringing sound in my head.
“And I’m just going to be asking you some questions and if it ever gets hard for you or you think that maybe you want to take some time and take a break or something like that, why, you can do that if you want. Ok?” The second hand on the clock moved slowly past the six.
“Uh-huh,” I said. I couldn’t say anything else. There was a lump in my throat so big I thought I might choke.
“Do you think you can answer some questions right now?” My cheeks got all hot and there were tears in the corners of my eyes.
“Yes…” I moved my pointer finger over the navy blue square on my kilt. My head was fuzzy. My ears got hot and tears started to roll down my cheek.
“Would you like to step down for a little while right now?” the judge asked me.
“Yes,” I moved my fingers over the frayed part of the kilt. The split part was against my fingers.
“Now, let’s take a five minute break right now,” the judge said.