Tag Archives: summer

Sprinklings of memories

Last night I walked by a sprinkler in the side yard of a beautiful old yellow heritage house in James Bay.  

It was one of those old-fashioned sprinklers from the 60s that moves back and forth in pinstripe lines of needle-like water. You can adjust the stream so it fits in small spaces or turn the water on, full pressure, so it can move back and forth across a bigger expanse of lawn.

This sprinkler was on a very small rectangle patch of grass and some sort of lush greenery, tall grasses that blocked the view slightly past the fence, if I’m remembering correctly. The grass was mostly in shade, but with the soft light of 7 p.m. shining onto a dry patch of it.

The water, jetting out of the sprinkler, glinted in a stream of sunshine that hit it. And in my two seconds of passing, because I was walking fast, I was immediately transported back to a side yard at my house in New Westminster during my sixties childhood.

I could feel the needle stream of wetness on my legs, hear the joy of running under it, especially if my best friend was there. The trying to avoid the water, running straight through it, putting my foot on top of the stream to prevent it from hitting me. I could see a red bathing suit bottom, perhaps of my friend but I’m not sure, and the way it sagged at the butt when it got wet. I could feel my brother’s hands trying to push me into the water. And see him being silly, his face over the stream, his black hair dripping wet. Two seconds of passing this scene in a stranger’s yard and I was right back at eight years old in another yard, during another time with the same type of sprinkler and all those visual memories.

Is this what happens with aging?

When you’re 90, should you live that long, does every image become stacked upon the scenes you’ve kept your entire life, little vignettes and snapshots hidden away, awakened only by an image or experience in the present as if every day is a taste test of the most delicious 14-layer chocolate cake, the most painful collage of things you’ve tried to forget?

The Memories that Get Stuck

MekongfruitsmallHave you noticed how every summer has a mood all its own that brings flashes of memories? It’s as if you’re watching a movie of someone else’s life.

Summer like one of those chic flicks that packed the theaters back in the day. Fried Green Tomatoes. Dirty Dancing. The Summer of ’42.

Busy. Melancholic. Content. Delicious. Slow. Quiet. Depressed. Time slowing down, speeding up.

Sometimes it has to do with the colour of light or catching a glimpse of someone’s eyes underneath a hat when the sun streams through the weave of the brim and deposits checkered patterns on their freckles. At the beach, the smell of sunscreen on burnt skin. Too late. Nose crinkled at seaweed smells. Stones stuck  between toes in flip flops.

A new love. A kayak trip. Camping with those people you never see anymore. The largest evergreens. Shade. Fighting over something you can’t even now recall. The anger, white, fast.  Cycling in the Fraser Valley. Day trips to new places close to home that might as well be far away.

Waking up beside you in that small top-floor bachelor suite in that old house on Balaclava Street and always the way the light hits the wall above your curly head. Fruit stands and liquid honey in plastic bears. A late afternoon swim during a thunderstorm. Was that wise? Necking on the rocks in that ocean-side park. The way a chair felt against my back when I heard that my sister had died.  Granville Island and my friend, the blonde, you know the one, we all had one.  The scenery as cars whizzed by and wanting to stop, to disappear and stand beside a river, skip stones and never come back to my real life.

Often, for reasons I can’t explain, when the heat is nudging breath early on a brilliant summer day like this morning’s, catch a memory from year’s back and ride it like a wave.

Sunday morning. I was eating cereal at the kitchen table of the house I grew up in. I was alone at the table, which, at that time, would have been unusual. Where was everyone?  Was I getting ready to go to my part-time job at that paint store? I was just a year out of high school.

It was one of those August days (was it August?) when by 8:30 am the heat in the kitchen had to be blocked by a pull- down blind. Outside, on the street that passed our house, I couldn’t see them but I could hear them. Guys, walking by. Mostly guys it seemed. Occasionally, the click of cleats on the pavement. A hardball tournament that day. Tennis across the street. Stuff, lots of it, needing carting. Voices, back and forth. Busy.

And, then, back to me in the kitchen. Day dreaming. Newly awake. Still waking.

No warning. BOOM. One strong, loud blast. Far away. Confusing.

Turns out it wasn’t summer after all when just now, I look up the date. May 1980. Really? How could it have been May? Memory so untrustworthy.  So positive that it was August.

I stopped eating, got up from the table and walked out to the back deck. I feel the smoothness of it under my bare feet. Everything seemed fine. Shrug. Turn to go back inside. Wondering.

The morning that Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.

If you lived in the Lower Mainland then, do you remember hearing it? Do you remember what you were doing and where you were?

Do you wonder why some memories, not just the big ones, like that one, but ones that everyone else would have left behind, sometimes get stuck and replay all the time for reasons you can’t even explain?