The stereo blasts as I make my way through the crowd of dancing legs and hips at my eye level, gathered in the small living room of my house. Between the music and the shouting and laughing of my family, the volume of the room is almost overwhelming. I manage to single out one voice, singing along raucously, and battle my way to a pair of cropped black pants and tall wedge high heels. I tug on the sleeve—my Aunt Fern looks down at me, into my chubby little face with big brown eyes and rosy cheeks. “Heeeeeeeeey!” she shouts, as though she hasn’t seen me in months, even though we sat together for dinner earlier. She’s wearing big dark sunglasses, her long, long white-blonde hair in a bun on top of her head, and the sleeve I’m tugging is covered in gold sequins, glimmering in the light from the lone lamp in our living room. It’s our annual Halloween party, and I’m dressed as a seven-year-old Wednesday Addams. The gray wool dress is buttoned up to my neck making me itchy, and in my free hand I’m clutching a headless Barbie doll—homage to Wednesday’s decapitated companion. Aunt Fern swings my free hand and pulls me into the thick of the dancing. Though I can’t see their faces, I know everyone—my Aunt Annie’s infectious, raucous laugh, seeming to explode from her petite frame, and my dad’s friend Pete, who has a baby doll strapped to a big orange square of foam on his head and a wooden cross in his hand (“I’m the holy Baby Cheez-Its!”). I hug Aunt Fern around her waist, then scoot back out of the crowd. Too close for me. I run out onto the front porch, where my dad and my brother and my Aunt Nan are laughing. Aunt Nan brings a rubber mask for my dad every year—this Halloween, it’s a creepy King Kong mask, which my dad is wearing with a button-down shirt and a pair of the slacks he wears when he substitute-teaches. “Daddy!” I demand, hurling myself into him. He picks me up and sits me on the porch railing, but first he takes off the scary mask. He knows I don’t like them.
“Having fun, Jules?” he asks me, grinning. His hair is a little wild, the brown and silver strands mussed further by taking off the mask. I beam back and nod and keep my hand in his, feeling safe in that little haven even as our house was full of singing and stomping and shouting. “Daddy, will you sing the song later?” I don’t have to specify which song—at family gatherings, he always sings me “My Girl” by The Temptations.
“Of course, as soon as we start playing,” he replies, and I feel like the most special girl in the world. Who else’s dad would get a bunch of loud and rowdy grown-ups to play a special song just for her? Aunt Nan laughs at something my brother says—the Romano family laugh, the staccato ‘ha-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!” that my dad shares with his three sisters and his brother, and presumably his late brother, too, although my only strong memory of him is his sing-song calling of “Juuuuuulie, Julie, Julie!” The air is a little chilly, and I slide down off the railing. “I’m gonna go find Mommy!” I push through the living room full of adults, now singing along with The Grateful Dead’s ‘Built To Last.’ All these trials soon will soon be passed…Look for something built to last…
My dad calls after me.“Love you, Jules!”
this is an excerpt from my term project for my memoir class, a series of vignettes from my childhood.
more info can be found here, as well as another excerpt.