The first time I saw a movie in a theater, I was terrified. I wailed loudly, so my mother left the theater with me halfway through the film. All I remember about Pinocchio is standing on a small-town sidewalk while my mother shouted that movies cost money to see, and were nothing to be afraid of.
Shouting fills the spaces of those years at my grandparents’ house, and also my aunt’s house, where we lived for a short time. I ran a staple through a four-year-old finger, and there was shouting because I wasn’t supposed to be using the stapler. We headed out for a walk downtown, and I fussed about the long walk and wanted my stroller, and there was shouting about being too big for it, though I had just been walked in it a few days before and wasn’t too big then. When I could not ride my bike without training wheels, I stood in my aunt’s gravel driveway, blinking at my mother as she shouted from beneath the weeping willow I had helped her plant there.
My grandmother and my mother shouted at each other. Mostly, I stayed out of that, although once I heard my mother shouting, Oh, Mother! at my grandmother, and that was wrong, because she was Grandma, not Mother. I interrupted and was told to shut up, but I didn’t. One of them was Mother and that was my mother, not Grandma, who was my grandma. That one time, I shouted too, until they finally gave up whatever that day’s argument was about.
There were quiet places, too: my Grandfather knew where they were. The park near our house was quiet, and he and I would walk there together with the Schnauzer. His bedroom, separate from my grandmother’s, was quiet, and private, and sparse, housing only what mattered to him. He had a reel-to-reel tape player, and in the evenings, he would play The Carpenters and I was allowed to listen, too. The living room was often noisy, but quiet when Lawrence Welk was on, and my Grandfather would sit with me on the gold velvet davenport while I watched the ladies singing with bubbles floating around them and wished I could be one of them someday.
Once, we sat in his room, and he showed me how to pare an apple with his sharp pocketknife. He let me touch the knife so I could feel how sharp it was, and then explained how to cut away the seeds and core, so that I would know what to do someday when I was old enough to pare an apple, too.