I don’t remember Mom strapping a pillow to your butt when we were learning how to rollerblade, but you swear that it happened, and knowing her, I believe it. I remember how we fell. I remember coming into the house with skinned knees, and I remember Dad telling me, “Don’t get blood on the carpet.” I remember my bruised tailbone the day before we made the five-hour drive to Merced. I remember sitting in the backseat with my torso tilted forward, a towel wadded behind me to ease some of the pain.
I don’t remember how long it took for us to stay upright on our skates, but I remember racing down the sidewalks on Mt. Hutchings Street all summer. I remember going and going until the road curved by the community pool, which was as far as we were allowed to wander, and then we had to turn around. I remember how we sped back and back through the neighborhood, around and around again. I remember you keeping up with me. You always could keep up with me.
I don’t remember how old we were that year we took our bikes to Yosemite, but I remember Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, and The Eagles playing as we drove up the aorta of California. I remember getting carsick from riding sideways in the motorhome. I remember not being allowed to feed our trailmix to the squirrels. I remember watching you ride your bike down the road by our campsite, and I remember how you fell, how you stayed on the ground in the middle of the street, even though the cars were coming. I remember how you wouldn’t move until Mom ran out and got you.
I don’t remember why I decided to climb the tree out front–the other one, the one without the wooden steps that Dad had nailed to the trunk–but I remember not getting very far before I slipped and fell and landed flat on my back, the air knocked clean from my asthmatic lungs. I remember thinking I’d been paralyzed. I don’t remember how long I lay there believing that, but I remember how I didn’t move until Dad came out and found me. He said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m paralyzed.” He said, “Dinner’s ready. Come in the house.” So I did, but I remember spending the whole meal and days and days after wondering what would’ve happened if I had been paralyzed.
I remember how we fell: learning to rollerblade, learning to bike, learning to climb, learning that, when we ran too fast for this world to keep up, we were punished with skinned knees and bruises and blows to our egos, all the things that tried to keep us down. I remember bandaids. I remember scabs. I remember my breathing machine, and I remember your breathing machine, the one that kept the air from leaking out of your collapsed lung. I remember our stubbornness, yours and mine–different, but also the same. I remember the way we used to take all the stuffed animals out of the hammock and bury each other beneath them, how Mom got mad at us every time. I don’t remember when we started doing this, or why, but I think now I know: we were trying to build ourselves a softer place to land.