First Page

From: My Father Before Me

I’m clinging to my father while he holds me loosely. I’m two, my head against his chest, his right arm around me; his other arm hangs at his side. He has carried me to the edge of an observation deck, to a metal railing only as high as his waist. He leans forward, gazing away from me. I grip his shirt. Thick orange steel girders jut out beneath us, unbudging sunrays. He lifts his free hand and waves at the world before us: a sprawl of tall buildings, exuberantly green and distant hills, the glittering silver blue of Puget Sound. My body slips a little; his hip and the crook of his arm support me, barely. Five hundred feet below, a sleek white train slides by in silence. I understand that my father means to drop me, to let me go, to watch my body tumble from the top of the Space Needle and shrink quickly from his view.

            This is my earliest memory—and a false one, of course. Of course. How could it not be? My young, stumbling mind, developing slowly, must have conflated several disconnected events and impressions and arrived at this fiction.

            Forty years later, I mention it to my mother.

            “Oh, that was true,” she says. “I remember. He made me very nervous, holding you close to the edge like that.”