Tag Archives: Florida

To Brockport, From Goddard, With Love

Goddard College Clockhouse

Goddard College Clockhouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t traveled much in my lifetime.  I can count the times I’ve been out of the country on one hand, and most of those trips were hour-long drives to Niagara Falls, when I’d squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath over the Rainbow Bridge.

I love Vermont.  During this residency at Goddard College, my MacBook is on its last leg, and I had too much Sauvignon Blanc last night.  I’ve never been to France, and I can’t do that accent, so I practiced “Sauvignon Blanc” over and over, meaning to order it without sounding idiotic or pretentious.  Practice doesn’t make everything perfect.  I can hardly get the keys on my Mac to type words I’ve spelled since first grade.

Yesterday, I tried to get to the RocRoots page from my aging Mac to see a story I’d written for the Democrat & Chronicle about Edgar Coapman and his dog.  It took me an hour.  I managed, and the piece looked like it had when I sent it out, familiar in many ways–not just in the way that it was my work, but in the way that it was my place, as though I can peer into the depths of this village I call home, all the way from Goddard, the place I call home for this week.

I’ve been out of town for a few days, and since, life has gone on in startling ways–my brother gave birth to kidney stones, my sons have become still more articulate (and are getting along), my uncle has come to visit from Florida, bringing with him a larger sense of home than can fit between the boundaries of our village, our house has glimpsed, perhaps, its new owners, and I am here, on the outside, gathering reports like I do during research– only reporting from decades later–preparing to write some story, some thing that can hold tight to pulp of human life.

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Snow, late.

Blizzard in Rillington, North Yorkshire, Engla...

Image via Wikipedia

It was half-through January, and my promise to Johnny that he’d wade through snow or sweep angel shapes with his arms and legs against the cold-burning flakes had still not come true.  Our Christmas tree had gone up and come down.  Even before Christmas, the festive lights looked like they’d been strung up too long, that they’d already served their purpose.  There had been barely any measurable snow.

Finally, on January 13th, Johnny perched at the window, watching the tiny patches fall from the sky in a real-life snow globe.  The window opaqued with breath, and then he drew wet lines to see through to the outside.  At three, he wasn’t a weather veteran yet–he wasn’t nostalgic for the comfort of sweaters and mittens or the sting of wind strong enough to drive retirees to Florida.

Of course, neither was Sammy.  This was his first winter ever.  Belly against the couch and my arm, he watched the scene, pointing with his hand’s five fingers.  The salt trucks were at it, layering their crystals heavy on the road.  This would be the demise of my cognac-colored leather boots, I knew.  Sammy gazed at the blinking lights of the tow trucks, how they alerted themselves, shining false emergency into homes like ours.  Warning beeps I had never questioned in all my life suddenly made me wonder.  Sammy and I had much the same questions.

A large delivery Mack growled down the road so loud that Johnny jumped.

“It’s okay you little munchkin,” Johnny said to Sammy.  Sammy hadn’t been shaken, but Johnny ran his hand over Sammy’s hair to soothe himself.

Sammy’s eyes followed tires taking their time over the salt crust, then turned to the plow truck fanning dust down the opposite lane.

Then he saw them: a flock of birds, breaking from the trees in synchronized waves.  The birds had blended in before as part of the still-life, small black knots and bends on giant twigs.  Sammy drew air in deep through his nose and let out a breathy scream.  Of joy.  His arms flailed, and I imagined the tapping made the same sound as wings on air.

The birds flew, oblivious to the snow, as though they were just another line of traffic.


To Those Things I’ve Loved and Left:

Nostalgia in objects.

1. Homemade popcorn. I waited anxiously for you as a five or seven or ten-year-old, from the side of the stove. My mother would hush me as she poured your golden kernels, clanking and then lessening to tinks, against the silver pot. I’d hear pops as she’d rake the pot back and forth across the coiled burner. The cover was on, and you, future popcorn, would dart against the lid or the sides. After you bloomed into a perfect canvas for flavor, my mother emptied the pot into the brown Wegman’s (read: “Wagmen’s”) paper bag, to be topped with melted butter and salt, and shaken mercilessly. My fingers padded over with grease and salt, and I found remnants of your kernels in my teeth a day later.

2. The corded phone, attached to our living room wall. You are the reason I remember my brother sprawled on his back on the chocolate-colored carpet across the threshold to our living room. He could not leave your side, or the side of whoever was on the other line. You were placed within view of the television, luckily. Without call waiting, there were arguments to hurry conversations with friends or girlfriends. My brothers had no camera phones to view who they were talking to, so they were sure Debbie was “the real thing” when the town pedophile began calling our home.

3. The Preview Channel. You, a constant companion. The soothing scroll of television programs meant security to me. I knew what was coming next, yet I never turned from your channel. Here’s what I remember about you: Gremlins, Family Ties, Full House, You Can’t Do That on Television. There were many programs I couldn’t watch because my house didn’t subscribe to The Disney Channel or The Movie Channel, so you also reminded me of what I couldn’t have. That was captivating. Then you expired, leaving me to watch The Weather Channel, to listen to its elevator music. Now I watch hurricane season, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms unfold, waiting for the local weather every ten minutes, and it’s always on time.

4. The cordless phone that hung on our kitchen wall. You made many trips to my bedroom and stayed there until you would die, and my mother would yell, “Sarah, do you have the phone?” My father would call, “Sarah! Are you ignoring the beeps again?” Even then, I’d developed ways to ignore the inconvenient. I knew how to conference call, which was a sophisticated trick. Your buttons were worn, the numbers missing, the smooth texture unfazed by blush or foundation. Your paging call, the sound you made when my mother would hit the gray button stole me from my boyfriend or best friend, to return you to your rightful owner. You: a translator with memory lapses, a broken arm, a passing friend, and your numbers calling out to me way past their prime: 6375977, 6592263, 6372096, 6377065, 3283826, like little representatives.

5. Notes. I dumped you, notes, you papers, all college-ruled with nicknames and apologies and mundane records of my high school and middle school lives, drawn on and folded, into a very large plastic garbage bag. There was no room for you to follow.

6. Postcards. I’ve only received two in the mail this past year. Though throughout my lifetime, I’ve kept every one of you. You list inside jokes so old I don’t remember their significance, only that they were once significant. You advertised places I’d never been, though views I could see anywhere: melon-colored sunsets, cerulean oceans with sailboats grazing the shore, a cactus plant I could have probably found at Sara’s Farm Market. Postcard, your contents were less-revealing than notes, your images were crisp. You told me other people’s memories.

7. Mailbox. You hold very little to me, now, (except at Christmas-time) but I still recognize the importance of your station. You are the reason I always ask my husband, “Did you get the mail?” or the reason I insist on checking every day, even when I find an empty tin box. When I was younger, the mailbox offered a promise of trendy magazines, made for devouring in one sitting and kept until I realized they would never be read again. You identified me, placed my name in hard black text on white glossy paper. Back then, you were the reason I had an address. Mail was proof there were papers destined only for me.

8. Cash. When I turned ten, my parents bought me a drawing desk. It was large and white with an attachable black lamp and two side compartments that held art supplies. I was excited to stock it with office supplies. When I reached in my purse (yes, I had one of these then), I found fourteen sticks of Fruit-Striped gum and twelve singles. I chewed that gum so fast, two sticks at a time, until it lost flavor. You, cash, had worn over, now soft as leather. It pleased me to fold you, and straighten you, and crinkle you in a ball. Yesterday, on campus, students were fundraising for the homeless, and those around me responded: “I don’t carry cash.” I thought the same thing myself.

9. The canvas SUNY Brockport bag. I kept you from when I was ten until I graduated from college. I cut holes all around your opening, linked the holes with a blue combination lock, and kept my journals inside. You were durable, and I didn’t have to write “Keep Out”– you made that apparent to anyone.

10. Maps. You came with me to Florida when I was nineteen. I drove with twin friends and a fluorescent-yellow-haired girl I didn’t care for. You were there during my breaking point, Map. After we’d lost ourselves in West Virginia on the way down, I navigated the whole way home. (Didn’t everyone lose their way in West Virginia?) Yellow-haired girl insisted we head South from Florida to New York, while I insisted we head North. It was that simple. I showed her your blue veins traveling up towards Lake Ontario, and she finally agreed, her hair swooshing as she guffawed in self-deprecation.

To be continued…

Next: penny candy, dandelion stems, cassette tapes, etc.