Sense Memory

by Sandra

Pardon the anecdotal nature of this post.

I love those moments that make you gasp, that jolt your mind from whatever thought it was on. Those that exhibit the kind of beauty that point to something else, in a universal sense. It’s seeing a smog-oranged moon rising out from behind a line of rolling hills, or hearing the perfect pitch of a three-part vocal harmony sung over the sweet twang of a lap steel (a la Blitzen Trapper).

This kind of jolt can happen in the middle of a conversation, too, like it did tonight while I was in the kitchen with roommate Michelle. She was telling me about a reality show she’d seen called Secret Millionaire. In it, she explained, millionaires dress up as vagrants and interact with people. This is a gross oversimplification of what happens in the show—I’m sure there is a greater point than simply playing dress-up, but I didn’t hear much else of what she said, because the second she said “they dress up like homeless people,” I remembered that my dad had done that once, when I was a kid.

The circumstances were quite different; Lord knows, Dad was not a millionaire in the economic sense. I was in high school, and youth group was having a Halloween party / scavenger hunt. The hunt? Finding our parents, who volunteered to dress up and and hide out in the tiny downtown area of The Dalles. Through feed stores and gas stations and hardware stores and restaurants we tromped, locating parent after parent. But where was Dad? He was the last to be found, due in part because he had smeared dirt all over his face, donned a ratty jacket and beanie, and sat, hunched over, on the curb behind a row of businesses, a large black garbage sack full of cans by his side. So convincing was he as a homeless guy that I, his own daughter, failed recognize him, or more truthfully, failed to take the time to really look at the contours of the man’s face or stride of his gate to realize it was her own father.

I can’t remember who actually identified him, or if any of us did. Eventually he revealed himself by taking off his hat and putting on his eyeglasses. I remember feeling simultaneously proud of him for hiding so well, embarrassed that my dad would smear dirt on his face, and somewhat ashamed at myself for having avoided close contact with the presumed vagrant. Several kids, mostly boys, were dually impressed and talked of nothing else during that evening’s bonfire and marshmallow roast.

Anyway, this is where the anecdote ends—abrupt, I know. I haven’t thought about the time Dad dressed like a homeless man in a really long time. I feel like I want to check out this Secret Millionaire show, and you can too, by clicking here.