Transitional Objects

by Kristine Langley Mahler

The satin binding on the yellow security blanket that swaddled me home from Home Hospital. A gold and brown teddy bear with a large P for the place where my father walked away from his dissertation. A flipbook album featuring my distant “grandparents.” A yellow crate, the alphabet glued on its side, with a heavy lid that crunched my fingers. A slide on the postage-stamp-sized apartment patio. A staircase. A pox party. A neighbor’s windowless bathroom with a red flashlight turned upside down; eating Ritz crackers as my brother was born. A gas station stop for a moving van. A plane ride I do not remember. A hotel room at the Shanico. Lions, tigers, cocktails, cocktails. A huge evergreen, wide-hipped, in the backyard. A lost Portia the Porcupine figurine. A record player and the Rescuers plaintively asking, “Who will rescue me?” Love-a-Lot waiting in the dark of Christmas morning. The Big Dipper traced on a square of notepad paper; the disorientation of arriving home with the stars above me and staring so long at the night sky that my house did not feel like my house when I tilted my head back down. A dresser misplaced in the dining room where the rubber bands were kept. Hydrangeas that turned pink instead of purple. The fenced passage to the church where I went to Vacation Bible School. A picture of the lights of Los Angeles in my babysitter’s house across the street. A babysitter’s house with a bedroom where I had to “nap.” A babysitter who let me enter the bathroom while she sat on the toilet, her hair long enough to form a curtain around her body. A babysitter who asked for my graham crackers at lunch. A babysitter who promised we would go swimming in the backyard on Friday but when Friday came, it was “too cold.” A bar of soap at preschool where I pressed my initials. Rug samples on which I napped. A secret upstairs gymnasium filled with Cozy Coupes and tricycles for when the weather was bad. Mr. Nobody unbuckled in the seat beside me in the car pool that wasn’t, actually, an open convertible with a hot tub in the backseat. Walking with my neighbor to buy feeder fish for Lunker at PayLess. The orange slice gummies that I bought for a dime but my friend’s mom thought I stole. Blue eyeshadow I had to return. Letters I was asked to mail “home” with twenty-five-cent stamps bought at the back of the pharmacy. I had to lick the serrated edges.

Kristine Langley Mahler is a memoirist experimenting with the truth on the suburban prairie outside Omaha, Nebraska. Her work received the Rafael Torch Award from Crab Orchard Review and has been recently published in The Normal School, Waxwing, New Delta Review, The Collagist, Superstition Review, and The Rumpus. More at kristinelangleymahler.com or @suburbanprairie.

Artwork by: Elizabeth Giffin