November 24, 2013

KNISELY: A link to my past


---- — As the radio blares with warnings of bad weather, the skies go dark and then an alarming gray. And that’s when the tornado siren’s cries fill the town.

You then grab a few things before retreating to the basement just in case both of their warnings turn out to be accurate.

In that moment, you get a glimpse of what’s most important to you. It’s not a striking a-ha moment, so most probably miss it. But the things you take to the safety of the basement can be telling.

For me, as last weekend’s storms descended on Cass County, I didn’t grab a few things. I grabbed one.

His name is Sparky. He is a sock monkey.

Whenever there is a threat of bad weather and I find myself throwing some just-in-case emergency items in a bag, Sparky is always the first thing. If I only had time to get a bag of survival essentials or Sparky — but not both — it would always be the latter.

You might be shaking your head right about now, thinking I’m rather impractical. Eh, you’re probably right.

That sock monkey is a link to my past that I could never replace. I’ve often thought I must have lived through a tragedy as a child that my family has never told me about because I remember so little about my childhood. There are huge gaps in my memories, as if someone has taped over them.

I listen with envy when my sister talks about all manner of childhood memories in vivid details. I have only a few memories I can recall, and every one of them involves Sparky.

One he holds isn’t a fond memory. In fact, it’s probably a day most kids would like to forget. It’s not as if it’s a tragic memory, it’s just not a happy one. But I hold onto it because I have a clear image of my young self in it. When I look at Sparky, it’s almost as if I’m hovering over the living room of the house I grew up in and I can see me sitting on the floor with him.

I don’t know how old I was when this evening took place, as my few memories don’t come with such details.

My older sister had a loose tooth. A little freaked out by its impending removal, my sister didn’t go down without a fight. It’s a fight my father was more than happy to give her. My sister and parents were all in the bathroom trying to get that stupid tooth out of my sister. Stubborn as a mule doesn’t come close to describing my sister — or my father. It was a battle of wills in that bathroom, and one way or another the tooth was going to lose.

I was glad I wasn’t in there. I was in the living room doing what I did whenever anything bad was going on — I was sitting with Sparky. In my young age, I was convinced my parents were killing my sister. My sister was screaming and crying and my dad was just screaming. Mom was pleading with both of them with little effect.

I can see me in such amazing detail as I sit there with Sparky. I’m crying and holding him tightly, telling him I’m scared. I can see me sitting cross-legged on the floor and rocking back and forth, pouring my heart out to a stuffed animal. I can see me pulling him away from my chest and looking at his face. I can see his stitched-on excited eyes and bright red smile staring back at me. I can even feel how assured I was in that moment with him. Only as a child could we have a true moment of connection with a stuffed animal.

If that stuffed animal were to be lost, it would create a void in my life. Not the 14-inch void his physical absence would create, but an immeasurable gap between me and my past.

So Mother Nature can have the house and everything in it, but she best not touch Sparky.

Misty Knisely, managing editor, can be reached at 574-732-5155 or via email at Follow her: @PharosMK