We lived in a planned suburb and our back yard jutted up against Farmer George’s rickety old white clapboard.
Farmer George had a tenuous relationship with the suburbanites. We could hear his roosters and some would complain; the neighbor’s dog escaped and chased one of said roosters, and he complained. My family was cordial with him and I was fascinated by this stubborn man, clinging to his last acreage.
Until the exposure incident, when I was forbidden to ever talk to him again.
One night, my mom happened to be looking out the kitchen window, which faced Farmer George. And, according to my mom, there he stood in his window, naked and erect, fondling himself and looking, it seemed, right back at my mother.
It happened a few more times. My dad called the cops. But, they explained, there was no law against standing naked in your own house, and there was no proof that he was “aiming” at my mother. My dad wanted to go beat up Farmer George. My mom’s cooler head prevailed. And, later that night, my dad, for the first time ever, cried in frustration and helplessness at being unable to protect his family from who knows what perversions.
That’s how I remember it.
I can’t know if Mom or Dad remember it differently, because they both have died, taking with them the certification of my memories.
In a family so bound by storytelling, when the only ones who were there as you created memories die or go away, you are left wondering if your stories are the right ones. In my extended family, stories are repeated, burnished, embellished at every family gathering. Like some Japanese movie, each participant has his or her unique point of view.
But, my stories? Who will I share them with, and, if they are wrong, who will correct the details for me?
I know the incident with Farmer George happened. But did it happen exactly that way? I remember my father crying. But was something else happening at the time?
I won’t ever know. My memory keepers have vanished.