“When we were young, my mom enrolled us in ceramics classes through the winter to help pass the time, and although much of it was gifted through the years, those times together are rich with memories.”
The other day when I stepped into the humidity of the morning, I smelled my mother’s hand cream on my skin.
In the summer of my 17th year, my parents made plans for me to travel back to Windsor with my aunt Sylvia & uncle Art, who were down visiting. My mom had put us in a ceramics class the previous fall, where I’d made cookie jars, a Mary Madonna for my cousin Pauline and a Tom Sawyer-like figurine.
I will never forget that first night at my uncle’s house, as they had one of those cubby doors that opened both in and outside the house for the milk man. They had a built-in laundry chute and a TV room with lime-green wraparound seating. In those days, everyone had an orchard in their backyard with lemon, lime, peach, nectarine or plum trees. It was heaven on earth.
That night, Sylvia made the biggest meat loaf smothered in ketchup that I’d ever seen. The next day she and I went through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and had lunch on the 73rd floor of the Renaissance Centre. As the jewel of 1977 Detroit, this revolving restaurant hosted 360 degree views of two spectacular waterfronts.
On the way home, I asked my aunt if she remembered us going to Bob-Lo amusement park (pronounced Bobba-Loo) to ride on the swan boats. https://www.mlive.com/news/2018/09/the_haunting_remnants_of_boblo.html
I was six years old and could recall the seasickness feeling of the ferry boat that took us over and how close the water’s edge came to the soles of my sneakers.
On the last day of my visit, I took little Tom from his suitcase hiding place and gifted it to Art & Sylvia. I’d gazed at him the whole night before, memorizing every little detail. At the train station I was overcome as Sylvia stood for a long time on her bad knee, smiling up at me. She packed me a lunch and I was torn of wanting to run back into her arms and pushing the train onward to get my aunt off her feet and resting in her tiny little car.
I sealed the moment forever. The colors of the sky, her practical skirt and silver hair, and the way her lips turned up when she smiled.
It was the first time I was ever that far from home yet I was safe and protected. The distance traveled may have been far, but matters of the heart are like a fire with those we love.
When Sylvia passed away in 2016, I reached out to her daughter – my cousin Nancy, and talked about the‘Gray Visits’of yesteryear.
I mentioned about my gift of Tom to her parents in the summer of ‘79, and learned how my aunt had kept him safe all those years on the TV table beside her. I cried hard, as those memories came flooding back. How do any of us know our value until we stop and ask the simple questions?
A few months ago, I’d happened to share a beautiful verse with my sister Janice written by the poet, Ken Smith. She liked it so much that I offered to purchase and mail her a copy of his works. Off it went into the world when just two weeks later I received a small padded envelope in the mail from Nancy. Inside was a small card with a butterfly and ladybug on a leaf. Suddenly that card felt very heavy, as on the day we purchased our home, I’d seen the same butterfly and ladybug in the yard here.
Unfolding the contents, I found an old tea towel imprinted with a likeness of my little Tom on the linen that Nancy had kept for over 40 years as a reminder of the figurine lost in time. I laid the towel against me and wept as my sister Janice had just received her own special package in the post, that same day.
I imagined those two packages brushing up against each other in transit. It’s been a year since Janice moved to London and I call her more now than when she was in Kanata. She enjoys my collection of kooky experiences, and the stories that I send.
For when I was very young – and she a new wife – I missed her terribly and was very sad that she went so far away, and here we are these many years later, holding steady to the legacy of memory.
Lisa Gray, Story for Writers, Copyright © July, 2020 – I would love to get feedback from my stories. Please email me at [email protected]