Thursday, March 22, 2012

Perfect Memories: Pachebel in London

I was a teenager, which meant my skills at preserving or treasuring moments were getting better, but still not fully developed. It was warm, but not too warm, in that way that London summers are so much better than Virginia summers. Warm, but not drowning air. We'd been walking around all day, museums and blue plaques and such. Used bookstores. An ice cream cone with flake. The sun was at mid-afternoon slant and not too obtrusive. Mom and I had wended our way through Covent Garden - stopping at Lush for Mom, at Pollock's Toy Shop for me - and we were strolling the second level, when we heard the strings start. We leaned over the railing and looked down into the courtyard below. There were little cafe tables set here and there, each occupied. And there, just under the bridge of the second level, was a string quartet, playing Pachebel's Canon in D. I don' think I knew the name of the piece at the time. Without a word or look of decision, we stayed there, pressed against the metal rail, watching from above, as the melody repeated and repeated, growing in complication, caressed by the quartet. When they finished, we stepped back and continued walking.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stories I really should have realized weren't true

Mrs. Takashima told our first grade class that once she had cut off her pinkie finger. On purpose. She didn't like the look of it, didn't think it served much purpose, and so she had it cut off.

Mrs. Takashima was a tiny little woman who reminds me a lot now in my memory of my great-grandmother Nana. Mrs. Takashima had short black hair, a straight spine, a large share in spunk, and a menagerie of pets in our classroom - a fishtank, a hermit crab terrarium, sea horses (briefly), crayfish (which looked like evil pocket-sized lobsters and scared the crap out of me), and an incubator full of hatching chicks.

She told our class all sorts of stories, some of them from her own life, and I should perhaps mention that I was an incredibly gullible child. Which marked me well as a non-liar for the rest of my life, but it also meant my blinders for other people making things up were pretty broad. It's possible the entire class knew this story wasn't true. I not only believed it on its face, I kept using it as a rationale for things for years afterward.

You see, she told us that she had the finger cut off, and then realized that she needed her pinkie finger for all sorts of things - she used it to balance her hand when writing, it helped her hold a glass (she kept dropping things when the finger was gone, you see). Basically, she realized after a while that she maybe shouldn't have had the finger cut off after all.

So she had it reattached. And now she's fine, and very happy to have her pinkie fingers.

I just ...

I was a very stupid kid.

(Don't get me started on the stories my childhood friend Anna used to tell me about her pet skunk or the secret passage behind the couch in her den, and the reasons we could never go down the passage whenever I came to visit.)