Memoirs & Memories

"One must be receptive, receptive to the image at the moment it appears."

from "The Poetics of Space" by Gaston Bachelard

Memories, over time, blend with imagination.  Here are a few of mine, some which will evolve into longer pieces, while others are simply images in a moment in time: 

                                                                                         Spit Shine

That flimsy metal cabinet with its faded yellow paint, up there in the bathroom. His bathroom. The door stuck and when you'd pull hard, it nearly toppled over. The linoleum was cool under my bare feet the morning I went in after my father had left for work. The mirror still steamed over, Old Spice hung in the air. My mother had said I could take a bath in his tub today, the big one, with legs. You could fill it up so deep that you could get in clear up to your neck. She left a fluffy white towel over the edge for me, the little electric heater glowing in the corner. Don't touch the heater while you're wet she'd always say. I'm glad I never found out why.

While water gushed into the big, heavy tub, I stood on the edge and opened the cabinet. It rocked a little, and inside, I could hear things - bottles and cans clinking together. From up there I could see onto the very top shelf. I'd never seen way up there before. His special bottle of aftershave was there, the one that smelled like spruce trees. He wore it only at Christmastime. And there, wrapped in a white handkerchief was my dolly's arm. The day it had been torn off, he'd wiped my tears away with a white hanky and said he'd rush her straight to the doll hospital and that they'd stitch her up in no time. Way back in the corner was a little wrinkled photograph. At first, I thought it was my mother, but when I leaned in close, I saw it was another lady. She was very pretty, I thought, in her riding outfit. And, yes, that was Daddy standing beside her, holding the reins. He looked very happy. And letters. All the letters to Santa I'd mailed right up there behind bottles of brown Kiwi shoe polish. I'd always gotten every last thing on all my lists.

Oh, the way he'd polish our shoes in that bathroom - always with the door shut. And leave them sitting in the hall, smartly paired together, gleaming with so much more luster than we could ever achieve. We thought there must be a secret, some special polish; he'd never let on. Now, as I dash a few drops of water from the faucet onto my own son's boots and buff it into the leather with the same soft, wood-handled brush he used, I can hear the water trickling oh, so faintly, into the basin behind that closed door.

                                                                                       Raccoon Song

In early spring when green first came to the wood, the ash arched their limber backs over our little creek, shading the wooden bridge, dappled sun dancing over rough planks. On spring nights when moonlight peeked through the newly budded branches of green, splashing milky drops of light on our simple crossing, the raccoons would sing. Lying in bed, I heard their first trills, gentle, distinctive, and I'd smile in the dark to think they allowed me to hear. Softly, I'd tiptoe onto the moonlight-drenched deck and wait, oh, so quietly, hoping to hear again their song. My soft brown shepherd slept soundly, hearing nothing but rabbits hopping through high grasses in her dreams -- ones she longed to chase, but could never catch. And then, I saw them. First, just one pair of eyes, gleaming orange-gold, on a bottom branch of the ash, then another bright pair a branch higher and another a branch higher -- staggered halfway to the middle, lessening in size as they ascended. An entire family crouched in the soft, green branches, staring across the creek bed straight at me as I stood barefoot in my white cotton nightgown. I had no one to tell, no one to say, "Oh, look!" I just stood in wonder connecting with one pair of shining eyes after another. I leaned down and gave my dog a soft stroke between her ears. We shared a secret that night, she and I, even though she was unaware.


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