Posted on December 29, 2013 by Patricia Ann McNair12.29.2013 Journal Prompt December 29, 2013: Here’s how I remember it… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
3 Replies to “12.29.2013 Journal Prompt”
Here’s how I remember it, which is not to say that what I tell you is truth or even near to truth, for the years are many between then and now, and this memory is a pebble I have turned over and over a thousand times and like a pebble that has travelled from the hills to the mouth of the river, it is so much smoother for so much turning.
I was a boy then. Yes, even I laugh to think it, for all boys will one day be men who are old but they never think that they will. A boy of sixteen, which is maybe somewhere between being a boy and a man, and summers then were blue and bright and long, and my sixteenth summer was all that and more. I was staying at the coast and I had a job delivering groceries to beach houses and old men and old women who moved so slowly and were so grey that they might have been ghosts except they spoke with sharp stabs of wisdom and they drew my attention to the flight of birds and the wind combing the grass and clouds torn to feathers in the clear sky. But they are not of my story.
One house there was and a woman in that house who said I should call her Christine and she had a child who was sickly and they were there for the clean warm air. I remember she ordered cookies and milk, and whole chickens, and sweet potatoes, and she always paid more than the bill and she said that was on account of the time that I spent with her to break her loneliness, and we just talked.
There was a child, that I recall, but I do not have any real memory of her except that she slept often or was singing in another room. There is no picture of her held fast in my thinking of that time. But Christine, sharp as a painting, and young when I think of her now, but then she was old – as old as a boy of sixteen thinks old, which was maybe thirty. And she made lemonade from lemons and we sat together on her front porch and we talked about this and about that and the day, every day, was slow.
Sometimes she took my hand in hers and she said I was handsome and she said I should be down on the beach with the other pretty young things, but she held my hand as though she did not want me to go. Or maybe that is my fancy.
I know that we kissed, too, but I do not remember how that happened or what the taste of those kisses was. I wrote nothing down, except her name in the sand and the recipe for her lemonade on the back of an envelope, and the words of songs that she taught me. I asked her one day, and the wind was up a little and the sea was whipping and the colour of slate, and I asked her if she loved me, even just a little. Or maybe that was something she asked me.
And once, we undressed behind the curtains of her bedroom, and if I try to remember that time, she is all the women since rolled into one, and the curtains lift a little in the moving air and the sun plays its fingers over her and over me, and my fingers and her fingers the same. And I did love her.
And suddenly Christine’s daughter is crying from the next room, and it feels strange to be lying alone in her bed, and the sheets cool against my skin, and the cracks in the ceiling making a map of no place I ever saw, and the broken songs of gulls drifting in through the open window.
She was the first I ever loved and now I am old she is the last, and I would give it all, this perfectly smooth pebble-memory, just for one moment of how it really was back then, for just one true taste of her kisses, sour or sweet.
I remember the day. There was such a fuss. Our mam got us new shoes, me and my brother, and we had a bath and she washed our hair and it wasn’t even a Sunday and it wasn’t for church. Our mam said the Queen was coming and we had to look our best, the whole country had to.
Of course she didn’t mean the Queen was coming to our house. The Queen was much too pretty to visit our wee house what with the toilet needing painted and the front gate holding a stubborn squeak and the grass in the garden wanting cut. No, the Queen was coming to see our new bridge and to declare it open.
We took the train to South Queensferry and there were crowds and so many people with balloons and smiles. Our mam said we had to stay close to her or we’d be lost forever. It was a misty day at first and everything grey and not much to see. There was a man with a van selling pink candy floss caught on sticks, like it was a fair; and another man with a fancy camera and our mam made us get our picture taken, me holding a small monkey with claws that pricked worse than the cat’s.
Our mam said we had to remember every small thing so we could tell our da when he came home from his work. I thought our da must be the only one in Scotland to miss seeing the opening, except that the mist veiled everything.
Then suddenly it lifted and out of the thinning grey there was a splendid car, all black and catching the light. And mam said that was the Queen and we waved small flags to show she was welcome and mam picked up my wee brother so that he could see. And the Queen got out of her car and made a neatly trimmed speech and her voice sounded tinny and slow. She was wearing a blue coat but she was too far away for me to say how pretty she really was.
And planes flew overhead and they made such a noise we had to put our hands over our ears. And boats on the forth fired their guns in a salute. And the bridge was open.
Later, the Queen took the last Ferry across the water and we stayed to watch. Our mam said it was history in the making and she said we should remember this day always. She was crying a little and dabbing her eyes with a small white handkerchief. And in the water I saw an orange jellyfish bigger than a dinner plate and ragged like torn cloth.
We got special fudge in boxes with a picture of the new bridge and the old bridge behind it. Mam called it a keepsake and she said the picture of me and my brother and the monkey would come in the post, which it did. The picture is in black and white and you can see the monkey is not comfortable and I’m not comfortable either. But we look scrubbed up nice and the day looks bright enough.
Later, da got us stamps with the pretty Queen’s head on and grey pictures of the new bridge with bands of blue and lilac and pink laid over the grey. But there’s no picture of our mam and she had a blue coat, too, same as the Queen, and a hat that did not cover her head, and our da called her pretty then, but there’s no picture to say that she was.