We were small fry in a grown up world, our dresses starched, our hair tight-curled on a candlestick by mothers who scrubbed the faces of small brothers with fingers they had spit upon to purge the dirt they’d lit upon.
We had no choice in any of this. Nor in the neighbor lady’s kiss. Sour and moldy though she might smell, we pretended we loved it well. So went the life in days gone by so long as you were just small fry.
Now children pose for selfies and diss the thought of an old lady’s kiss. They refuse to run through traces. Don’t allow spit-scrubbed-at faces. Skirts go unstarched, hair goes uncurled now that children rule the world!
She was the glitter in our all-too-literal lives. She left a trail of it, our littlest fairy. It was the dust of her, like that perfume half school glue and half strawberries. All these little paths she created in our lives— the silliness and dainty nylon net of her, with sand spilling from her overall pockets and shed-off Barbie Doll parts left like clues: one tiny shoe, a pink plastic door from her convertible.
These small reminders once filled our house and some of them remained when she no longer did. We find them like the droppings of her in infrequently visited drawers, the corners of cupboards and the hidden pockets of the sofa.
I find her signs as I empty vacuum cleaner bags— a tail of glitter through the dust that, unaware, she left like breadcrumbs through the forest of our memories.
Little girl. All grown up. Off in a different world that is like a new game of her own concocting, this house a scrapbook we would never choose to remove her from.
I could hear the beat of the band when they were a good distance down the beach, and wondered what the occasion could be. The festival of the Virgin on Guadalupe, Christmas and Tres Reyes were well behind us and Candelmas is a few weeks away. No patriotic observance was in the offing and I’d seen no previous funeral processions up the beach.
As the music drew nearer, the beat stayed true, but I was increasingly regretting the melody, which seemed to be comprised more of sounds than harmonies. I could tell that they had stopped in a nearby restaurant, though, so I grabbed my camera and made it to my porch just as the small cluster of boys with huge drum, jerrybuilt horns and impressive drum stand carried by a small boy who also carried a well-decorated tip jar made their way up the beach in my direction.
Spotting my camera, they set up in front of my porch and played one (very long) piece seemingly of their own authorship and possibly impromptu as well. The drum player belted out the lyrics while the others tooted their toots. Morrie seemed to be fascinated, although it’s hard to tell whether it was the music or the shoe of the tip jar bearer that intrigued him more. A very hefty tip was called for since none of the neighbors seemed to be appreciating this concert as much as I did and they thanked me heartily before moving once more up the beach.
Days were not over half so soon when we ate passion with a spoon. Swirled chocolate at the Frosty Freeze melting in the prairie breeze hot and redolent of soil— chaff of wheat and rattled coil. Summer days and summer nights, rolls in grass and water fights with uncoiled hoses, cooking pans, rolled up cuffs and soaked white Vans.
Passion then was not so much a thing of kissing or of touch as of smells and sights and taste. Baking beans and paper paste. Brand new tablets, pencil shavings. Summer nights, then autumn cravings. Cattle lowing, school bells, Cool spring water from deep wells. Throats that ached from drinking it, brought to light from ancient pit.
All these simple remembered things that thinking about passion brings: spin-overs on the monkey bars, rides on bikes and naming stars. It’s true some passion rides on night with pressing lips and gentle bite, or trembles on the fingertips straying over breasts or hips.
Yet simpler loves bring lesser rations of what adults consider passions. Words like passion must be allowed to be unfettered, like a cloud and not confined in connotation, dictionary or denotation. Sometimes passion can be bright— A meadowlark or soaring kite. Sun-chapped lips just touched with mist long before they’re ever kissed.
The car on the left was the one I requested. The car on the right was the one I got!!!!
When I was still trying to make it up to the Cabot trail in Nova Scotia in the black beast pictured above, I stopped at a big red barn restaurant—the only place close to the motel where I stayed for the night. The meal was not memorable and was accompanied by the agony of a girl child in the next booth who SCREAMED in a high shrill voice for at least half of the time to the accompaniment of a mother who occasionally ineffectively tried to shush her. It occurred to me that I could move, but at that point she started running up and down the length of the restaurant, piping “Ring around the rosy” in her irritatingly shrill and LOUD voice. Since I hesitated to turn to fix her with my own shaming glare, I never laid eyes on her until they finally left half way through my meal. By her behavior, I had thought she must be three or so, but was amazed to see when they finally left that she was more like five or six.
It was an incredible relief until another man came in with what looked like the same child. They blessedly sat a few booths beyond me as she seemed to possess the same voice and irritating behavior. At least, however, she stayed in her own booth—a bit further from my unappreciative ear than the last child. The meal was forgettable. The experience wasn’t. But, when I left, I at least snapped this photo which illustrates well the difference between the car I wanted and the gas-guzzling technologically puzzling beast that Hertz actually issued me. We parted company last night. Such a relief to hand it back to its rightful owners.