The world felt so clean it made me remember my childhood, when all things shone simple and clear to the senses: the red of a favorite sweater; that tingly first bite of plum with its bitter-soon-yielding-to-sweet taste; the face of an old alarm clock, whose second-hand trembled and jumped minutely, tense with the coiled energy of its metal spring.
Terry is off this week but sends with her greetings this chapter from her second collection, “Vacationing in My Driveway.”
It wasn’t quite 6:00 as I woke today, and the sun had yet to clear the treetops.
Outside, a dog jingled by, happy and leashless.
Across the street, an automatic sprinkler gurgled once and burst out whooshing.
The world felt washed so clean it made me remember my childhood, when all things shone simple and clear to the senses: the red of a favorite sweater; that tingly first bite of plum with its bitter-soon-yielding-to-sweet taste; the face of an old alarm clock, whose second-hand trembled and jumped minutely, tense with the coiled energy of its metal spring.
I remember all waking in my bed when I was three and looking at my arm against the sheet.
“Well you’re awfully little!” I recall thinking, for the first time feeling my mind as a thing apart from my body.
Animals lack this self-consciousness which we humans we have in abundance; we live, and we watch ourselves living.
Add to that the fact that we are acutely observant. We note things without even knowing we note them. One day we are sad past all explaining and it isn’t until night-time that we realize it is the anniversary of the death of one we long ago loved.
Memories trail us like vapors, some too tender to speak of:
The caring hand of a parent stroking our worried brow.
The slight pressure on our shoulder as a favorite teacher passes us earnest and working at our desk.
And, if we dwell closely with others, we sense their feelings as well as our own:
My husband David hasn’t even walked all the way inside the house before I can tell what kind of day he has had.
One of my girls calls on the phone and I answer with what seems to me a neutral hello. But “What’s wrong?” she instantly asks, somehow detecting under my voice a sadness I scarce know is there.
Stalked by memory, driven by dreams, we feel our feelings so acutely they all but wound us.
One day this David whom I love described to me a memory so tender he has spoken of it only once in all the years of our marriage.
Imagine it as your own:
You are not yet ten with a father young and full of life who drives a car of a certain peachy hue, unusual even in that bland pastel era of the 1950s.
Suddenly, inexplicably, this young father sickens and dies, and the car is sold, and never again do you see a car that color.
And then one day you do see one, and though you are then older by 20 years than your father ever got to be all you can think is: “Here he is! Here he comes! He’s finally back!”
Hearing such a memory, we feel our hearts constrict with an answering sadness and this welling compassion both comforts and pains us.
It comforts, because it connects us one to another.
It pains, because we see then how far we have come from our baby days, when we woke, and only saw the world’s bright shapes, and heard its lively music.
Write to Terry at email@example.com or care of Ravenscroft Press, P.O. Box 270 Winchester MA 01890. Read a fresh story every day and see pictures too at her blog Exit Only at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com