The Autobiography of My Memory

Margarita Sacopla Padua, behind the wheel, but not driving

The earliest memories I have are a morning
when I was four or five in 1962 or
1963, putting on my shoes in our old
apartment on “S” Street before going out to play,
standing on the cobblestones in Williamsburg,
Virginia under clouds that looked heavy with rain, and
the bomb. Somewhere in there was a crazy man who

 

followed my Mom and me on our way to the bus. We
were probably going downtown to what she called “the
remnant shop”—I don’t think that was its real name—so she
could buy material for another new dress she
was making for someone and I remember that I
was always bored when we went there, bored with all
the bundles of fabric, all the shades of thread, I didn’t

 

appreciate what went into making a piece
of clothing, though I remember that when the women
came to our house to get measured for their dresses that
it was nice to see them get measured. I remember
being in the kitchen at the Embassy as my
Mom talked with the woman who was the new cook there and
when the woman opened up a can of turtle soup

 

small live turtles started crawling out of the can and
across the table and they tried to catch them. I don’t
think that this was a dream. I remember the hamburgers
at the snack shop on the roof of Sears, when it was still
Sears and Roebuck, where we parked the first car I remember,
a pale blue ’59 Chevy Impala that
had what looked like wings in the back and what sounded like

 

a lot of horsepower under its hood and though I
could say that as a kid I wondered if it could fly,
I didn’t because I always knew that it was just
a car. And I remember my Dad always drove
because my Mom didn’t and we’d drive to the bay, drive
through a city which I remember in plain colors,
with everything being blue or yellow or green and

 

white and black and brown with no other colors in
between the moments I recall and the motion of the
walls as my Dad stepped on the gas and my mother sat
in the front talking about the weather, which sometimes
was snow, sometimes was rain and heat, sometimes looked
like stones in grey mist and once there was a flood we drove
by and there was a car stranded in the underpass

 

and we wondered did they get away, did they make it
out like we would always do whenever my Dad stopped
the car so we could stretch our legs, eat a cheap meal, go
to school, step onto the beach and run the way I remember
when I was young, when I didn’t hesitate to run,
with my arms in the air and my freshly tied shoes,
taking in a deep green breath to greet the future.

 

-Jose Padua

 

 

Photo: Margarita Sacopla Padua behind the wheel of  the ’59 Chevy Impala.  She was not driving. Jose Padua is co-author of the blog Shenandoah Breakdown.