A lot happened before I was born.
My childhood was mostly happy, each year dappled with family dinners, Moo-Moo and Pa’s house smelling of cedar and those little peppermint candies, the white bunny cake with jellybean eyes on Easter, Monopoly pieces strewn around mugs of instant coffee—I who never had the patience for the game and was already bad at money demanded the thimble, I still don’t know why–and on Christmas Eve toys of yesteryear from my aunt, whoopee cushions and rubber chickens and the like.
But as I said, a lot happened before I was born, not much of it good.
Like there was the time when my mom was maybe twenty and called that same Aunt a slut—I don’t know why—and my uncle, my mom’s brother, came barreling out of the house and broke my mom’s nose. And there was another time when Pa was yelling at that same uncle in the barn, calling him a stupid son of a bitch and my uncle gouged Pa with a hayfork and didn’t pull away until Pa apologized, something my family has never been won’t to do. And then there is this recent bit my sister told me just weeks ago when we were sharing a beer at mom’s, less than a mile from that very barn, and she told how when she was little, long before I was born, Pa would thin out the barn cat population by hitting them with hammers and shooting the ones he couldn’t catch, so she and her friend Emily would try to hide as many of the cats as possible, digging out little tunnels and holes into straw bales for them to wait it out. “We tried to save as many as we could,” she said, passing the beer, “But I can’t remember now if it worked.”