Remember this childhood

I was a child.  I still had a father and a mother.   I pause to remember being in the basement with my father watching him work on a wooden bench.  He smiled.  He tossled my hair.  His shining black hair and startling blue eyes looked upon me with warmth and love, and I felt safe and happy.   He was not as he seemed.

My mother shook me violently from the bed.    She grabbed a blanket, wrapped it around my small shoulders, and pulled me out the door of our 2nd floor apartment.    Smoke filled the rooms as we fled.  My older cousin, Janet, cried as mother hollered at her to leave the apartment.    We stood outside in the morning rain as the firemen shot water onto the burning building.  Flames rose from the windows, engulfing our small home.  But we were safe.   My father was not with us — where was he?

I later learned the fire had been started by him, as he casually tossed a cigarette onto the floor and let it burn.   He was a drunk, they said, and didn’t know what he had done.    We loved him, we forgave him.   And life moved on.