The small volcanoes my Dad would make in the front yard near the black currant bushes. He smoked these cigarettes that were pure tobacco. Short and no filter, so there was always a little bit of leaf bits falling off the ends as you pulled it out of its paper wrapping.
Somehow I loved that. As much as I hated how they affected his health in the end. But I was a kid then and volcanoes meant nothing but my Dad’s magic, his smell, his hands preparing yet another small mound of dirt to put a minuscule cigarette butt in, and my wonder at the sight of that small trail of smoke raising just like he predicted. I remember that.
My Dad smoked outside only, no exceptions. When I was old enough to want to match the breath of late summer nights with my own I would follow him outside as he smoked that last one of the day and we would listen to crickets and the sounds that spoke of beauty and presence in words that sounded like songs. My Dad loved telling stories. I remember that.
I remember my Mom’s hands tidying up the kitchen table, handing me a cup of tea in late evening, the steam rising like a whisper and dancing the night away as we talked. I remember her smile in the morning, her voice, the caring ways she’d wrap us in so we would always know which way is home. We did, my sister and I, until the day home stopped being there.
I remember mornings of brightness and small baskets to fill with strawberries, fresh eggs and curious chickens, their greediness to eat the handfuls of lush green I was throwing over the fence. Beady eyes, eager beaks and sounds of mornings that could not be translated into anything but an echo. Such is the fate of heart imprints, they stay within.
It is because they do that that I believed time can stand still. I sipped at times and other times I spilled some, I cherished and I wasted, some of what I should’ve learned I learned early enough and some I learned too late.
Coffee time, I remember that. Sometimes it came with straight faces, other times with silliness and laughter. My parents chatting, tidbits of life. Never a doubt in my mind that it will last. Before life stomped its ugly feet loudly and roared, before I knew of fear and words left unspoken. Forgiveness for innocence… does it exist?
I remember the day my Dad typed Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ and brought it home. The paper was thin, almost see-through (the irony…), each typed word a chubby critter linked to others to create a story. The meaning eluded me for many years. Today it all make sense.
I have lost so much since and gained so much too…
Tomorrow is Dad’s birthday. His first without him in the only world I know.
Mom’s was two weeks ago. Her ninth since it is only the echo of her voice that comes on that day. What is left then?
Summers with mornings too bright, evenings so wrapped up in flavours and sounds, stories left behind, laughter and tears, feet running on hot pavement to escape sun, cheating time with hugs and lengthy coffee time, everything exists as long as we remember it should.
If… the paper is even thinner now and words faded. I read it again and again. The poem becomes a story becomes a river of memories and stories told and untold, of wishes and dances where the music simply does not matter… it is but the willingness to dance, to live as if you hear the music, to know that it is there, to trust that one day you will hear it and it will all make sense.
I light candles, I say prayers, I cry. I love the lilac bush that towers over the grave and I hate that it can spend infinite time there, so near… Where to from here… I will read the poem, again, I will slow down to surround each word with reason, each seed of wisdom with gratefulness, I will do it so I will remember.
Not only for myself but for my sons, for whom I will one day type a poem. This or another. Just because. Because I want them to remember. Because I know they will. Because I know it is a path towards understanding the shadows, the light and darkness that time dresses in as we move along…