Going way back: my parents rented a beach cabin for a week at a place where, when I think of it now, I see a glittered sky, and sparkling light: Holly, on Hood Canal, in the eastern shadow of the Olympic Mountains. I like to believe I was two years old, but can we really remember all that far back? Whether I was two or six hardly matters. But I'll stick with that number, as it's what I've held all these years, and, well, it seems more primal, and, oddly, for some reason, more pure. (And I know four people who would most likely correct me on this.)
Anyway. I slept in a double bed, in the middle of all my sisters. Five of us on one mattress, and me smack in the middle, where the covers kind of floated over me. The utter comfort in that, and the sense of security! I recall sinking down, not needing anything, and the glorious letting go into dream-land. And waking up laughing, being tickled. If that was the only memory I carried with me from childhood, I think it would be enough.
But there's more from that single occasion: in the cottage next door was a little girl who was a year older than me (three!), and she wore a sun bonnet, and tottered about her garden with a giant watering can. There were foxglove, and daisies, and tall blue spikes whose name I wouldn't know for many years: delphinium. I was enchanted by it all: bonnet, foxglove, watering can — in dappled morning light. And impressed by this "older" girl, and how she seemed so in possession of her world.
When I think back on this now, I ask myself, was this real, or was this a story read to me by an older sister? And if a story, how much of the actual story am I remembering, and how much is a fabrication built upon years and years of remembering and re-remembering? Or are these details — so commited to my consciousness as fact —merely details that I heard from the countless family stories told around the kitchen table on dark winter evenings? Whatever their inception, they have existed for half a century, hard-wired into the circuitry of my brain.
But let's not forget the oysters on the beach which could cut a nasty slice into my foot if I took off my salt-water sandals. And the icy tide that lapped at sand and shell. There was probably a beach fire at dusk, and marshmallows on a stick, with graham crackers and chocolate at hand. And sticky fingers.
These were my thoughts tonight as I watered my vegetable garden, with my trusty old (and dented) watering can. And how that long-ago flower garden, whether it existed or not, has informed nearly every thought of flowers and gardens all the years since.
When I think of things I treasure — objects — this watering can is on the list. I don't know where it came from, or who had it before me, but it didn't come to me new, and it seems to have been around an awfully long time.
Perhaps I conjured it from memory?