The gang made forays into the gardens of old maids or went down to the castle and fought a battle on the shaggy weed grown rocks coming home after it weary stragglers with the stale ours of the foreshore in their nostrils and the rank oils of the seawrack upon their hands and in their hair.” From, A portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
Seawrack- Material cast ashore, especially seaweed.
I think that if we where all able to remember our childhoods honestly we would remember them as Joyce remembers his.
I have many early memories of visiting my grandparents when I was a little girl. They lived on the beach. Some very detailed memories and some a more vague. I remember my grandmother knitting, and her clock on the kitchen wall that had birds in the place of numbers. They where all different colors, and they would cocoo and tweet and twitter on the hour each hour.
There was a collection of bird figurines on top of the book case next to the radio, and the radio was always playing opera because my grandmother used to sing opera and she loved it very much. The bookshelf was not very tall, but I remember pulling a chair over so that I could stand on it and see the little birds on the top. I liked it when you where close to the radio because the music was loud and dramatic.
Once my grandpa saw me looking a book that I had taken from the book case and he told me that I should keep it so I did.
It was an 1912 hardcover edition of treasure island and I still have it.
He used to call me rabbit, he called all of us kids rabbit.
When I was older my grandma was tiered and spent most of her time in her chair
She would look out on puget sound, and the deck, and the bird feeders there
Which sounds nice I suppose, but there was never opera then. Because no one liked it but her, and she was to weak to walk to the radio. I remember turning it on once because I missed the sound. My aunt came by as soon as I walked away and turned it off again. I think my grandma missed the sound too. The next time I turned it on the station had been changed, it was just static.
The sound of the opera and the smell of the beach are my most vivid memories. It was a rocky beach at my grandparents so there was always all kinds of crabs, and shells, and flotsam, and jetsam to sort through, which is a fascinating thing for a child and should be.
My dad read me treasure Island as a kid, before my grandpa gave me the book. Years later I fell in love with a boy and I read treasure island out lout to him while we where driving cross country and living in the car. He loved the book but he got impatient with all the time I spent looking at the tide pools on the beach. I never want to read to the story again, because I don’t know if it is possible to be as happy as you are when you are a child, or when you are in love. I think Treasure Island might just make me sad now, but I still like tide pools.
A couple of years ago a woman walked into my work and she was wearing the same perfume that my grandmother used to wear. I wanted to ask her what it was, but by the time I gathered the courage she was gone. I never forgave myself for that.
There was a laundry shoot in my grandparents the bathroom that went to the basement and I always used to throw things down it so that gather them from the basket downstairs. That was before I was told not to go down the stairs because they where too steep and I always did what I was told as a little girl. I used to lock myself in the bathroom. I would try on my grandmothers lipstick and clip on earrings that hung from a plastic rack there. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to be told not to do that too, I knew grandma wouldn’t mind. There was a little box shaped like a shell where she kept her wedding ring. I would try that on too and push my fingers tight together to keep it from sliding off. Then I would pose in front of the mirror with my hand sitting under my chin and my pink lips. I tried to put it on again as a teenager. The ring was too small for me then.
Long after she was gone, I bought a box just like it I had found in the jewelry case at Value Village. In it I keep a puzzle ring that I got during our family trip to Yellowstone, and a pair of peridot earrings an old boyfriend bought me for my birthday. There is also a pair of vintage pearl earrings my aunt Rebecca gave to me before she married my uncle Bill, she used to be an opera singer just like grandma only she was in New York at the time, and someday I will go to New York too and be a writer. These odds and ends are invariably intertwined with dreams and memories, its funny the ways in which your stuff defines you. The memories might be gone without the stuff, just like I can’t remember the smell of my grandmas perfume now. Then the stuff and memories and dreams turn up again in the most bizarre and improbable places, like the jewelry case at value village. Tangible material cast ashore into this reality by a sea of impalpable, cognitive knowing. The seawrak of reality.