"The Place I Remember Best" by John Gower

The place I remembered best is behind a waterfall up in the hills of Hawaii. It is the place my father and mother first held hands. They were both in the Army and it was ten years before I was born. Something strange happened there in the cool-blue mist back in 1942. While the water thundered down all around them their tiny hearts began to settle into a common beat. Settled for good they had hoped, as they walked to the side of the falls, still holding hands as many soldiers had done before and jumped into the deep pool below. They later married and babies boomed, first one, and then two, then that’s enough, they both agreed but wait, wait, what’s this, a number three. That was close, because that little mistake was me.

Our station wagon was clever; it had a way back seat that folded up or down as needed. That was my seat. It felt far away from the undercurrents of control that carried my family forward. While they bickered in the front I quietly became one with the tops of trees and clouds in the back.

Chesterfields and Salems, Millers and Gin were my parent’s friends. Later we got a TV, and then TV dinners served in modern tinfoil trays, and my parents drank and drank while the children ate. They would eat later without us I was told. When I grew older my father explained to me that the trick to successful drinking is to drink, drink, drink, and eat, and then go to bed. However, without a family to hold me together I would forget about going to bed and would run full bore out, out, out of the house, and into the world, as though my heart were on fire. Only adventure could sooth the flames.  

Oddly, I can still remember the first sip from a can of my father’s Miller. The soury fizz was unlike anything I had ever had before. I was curious. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but it seemed to give me pause, a pause that felt new and dare I say, mature, the menthol taste of my mother Salems had a similar effect. Who knew that eventually they would become my favorite friends?

My parents died of tobacco and alcohol related diseases as so many people do. It happens so often that it was once considered normal, in some circles it still is.

Behind a waterfall where love, hope, mystery and delusion, mist together into a compelling pull of adventure is the place I remember best. 

Gary MillerComment