Monday, 3 May 2010

Pale Marble Movie

The room had a high Victorian ceiling and there was a marble fireplace and an avocado tree growing in the window, and she lay beside me sleeping in a very well-built blond way.
And I was asleep, too, and it was just starting to be dawn in September.

Then suddenly, without any warning, she sat up in bed, waking me instantly, and she started to get out of bed. She was very serious about it.

"What are you doing?" I said.
Her eyes were wide open.
"I’m getting up," she said.
They were a somnambulist blue.

"Get back in bed," I said.
"Why?" she said, now halfway out of bed with one blond foot touching the floor.
"Because you’re still asleep," I said.
"Ohhh . . . OK, she said. That made sense to her and she got back into bed and pulled the covers around herself and cuddled up close to me. She didn’t say another word and she didn’t move.

She lay there sound asleep with her wanderings over and mine just beginning. I have been thinking about this simple event for years now. It stays with me and repeats itself over and over again like a pale marble movie.

One Afternoon in 1939.

This is a constant story that I keep telling my daughter who is four years old. She gets something from it and wants to hear it again and again.
When it's time for her to go to bed she says, "Daddy, tell me about when you were a kid and climbed inside that rock."
She cuddles the covers about her as if they were controllable clouds and puts her thumb in her mouth and looks at me with listening blue eyes.
"Once when I was a little kid, just your age, my mother and father took me on a picnic to Mount Rainier. We drove up there in an old car and saw a deer standing in the middle of the road.
"We came to a meadow where there was snow in the shadows of the trees and snow in the places where the sun didn't shine.
"There were wild flowers growing in the meadow and they looked beautiful. In the middle of the meadow there was a huge round rock and Daddy walked over to the rock and found a hole in the center of it and looked inside. The rock was hollow like a small room.
"Daddy crawled rinside the rock and sat there staring out at the blue sky and the wild flowers. Daddy eally liked that rock and pretended that it was a house and he played inside the rock all afternoon.
"He got some smaller rocks and took them inside the big rock. He pretended that the smaller rocks were a stove and furniture and things and he cooked a meal, using wild flowers for food."
That's the end of the story.
Then she looks up at me with her deep blue eyes and sees me as a child playing inside a rock, pretending that wild flowers are hamburgers and cooking them on a small stove-like rock.
She can never get enough of this story. She has heard it thirty or forty times and always wants to hear it again.
It's very important to her.
I think she uses this story as a kind of Christopher Columbus door to the discovery of her father wen he was a child and her contemporary.


I'm haunted a little this evening by feelings that have no vocabulary and events that should be explained in dimensions of lint rather than words.

I've been examining half-scraps of my childhood. They are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning. They are things that just happened like lint.