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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

white plastic wash basin

I’ve been working on this particular memory for the past handful of weeks. The memory crept from the right side of my mind, from the back and bottom toward the top and front (though I don’t suppose the mind has geographic analogs to the conventional locations given to the brain). I felt it as it was creeping and once the memory announced itself to my conscious awareness, my entire body shivered with pleasure. 

My daughter Isobel, our dog Happy and I had returned home from a short camping trip and I was sorting out our supplies and washing up the dishes and utensils in the white plastic wash basin that we use when we go camping.  We are a household in which dishes are hand-washed —we are mechanical-dishwasher-less – so hand-washing our camp-cooking supplies once we returned home wasn’t an unordinary occurrence. What was out of the ordinary was that I decided to use the camping white plastic wash basin to wash the dishes, rather than using my typical in-the-sink method.  That’s when the memory wiggled its way into my mind (Such memories tend to come to me when I am in a relaxed and un-analytical and embodied state of being.).  A couple of days later I told Simeon about the memory, but I couldn’t follow it any further until it reminded me about itself again tonight.

As long as I can remember, and I only remembered this once the memory reminded me to remember it, my Gramma Jewell has used a white plastic wash basin to wash the dishes.  As far back into my own history as I can cast my mind, my Gramma Jewell has had this practice, and she continued this practice until my aunt moved her and my grandpa out of their home to live with her, followed by moving my Gramma into an assisted living facility after my grandpa died. After that, my Gramma didn’t get or need to do dishes any more, and until my aunt moved them, my grandparents lived in the same home for decades, in Menlo Park, California.  And they lived in a strangely modest way. For my entire life, or at least as long as I can remember, they had the same furniture and style of dress, they adorned their walls with art rented from the library, and their diet was sparse and narrow-band. There were other seemingly related practices, too – they walked or took public transportation rather than drive their old-model car.  And during one of the California drought summers, my Gramma, so as to conserve scarce water supplies, pulled up by hand all of the lawn in the front yard until all that was left was a hard earthen surface (Though now I suspect it was as much about water conservation as about preventing my grandpa, who was quite a bit older than my Gramma, from having to mow the lawn.). Despite all of these indicators of a kind of carefulness and frugality, never have you met more generous folks! Nor more well-traveled. In addition to helping the rest of us live, they used their savings to visit the Wall of China, New Zealand, the British Isles…when I was little I fantasized they’d take me with them on a trip someday.

I never had the opportunity to go on a grand global adventure with my grandparents, though I do have intense memories of walking all over Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and “The City” (San Fran.) with them, and of sitting on my Grandpa’s lap when I was seven years old to watch Charlie Chaplin films at the Stanford University auditorium (And I should add that I had recently been burned by hot oil, I had a third-degree burn on my left arm which emitted a unavoidably rancid odor, but my Grandpa held me close nonetheless.).  I also remember my “R-and-R” trips to visit my Grandparents during my late teens and early 20’s when I was on break from my undergraduate and graduate studies. I always looked forward to talking with my Gramma about all the books I was reading and big ideas I was thinking about. We weren’t just Gramma and Granddaughter, we were comrades.

So tonight I was listening to the Democratic National Convention coverage as I washed-up dinner dishes.  And as I was washing-up the dinner dishes I caught out of the corner of my eye a hummingbird flitting through the persimmon tree in the backyard.  I had made a special dinner for Isobel to celebrate her first day of school: a little game hen, mashed potatoes, and roasted garden veggies.  I washed the dinner dishes in the white plastic basin which instigated this remembrance of my Gramma Jewell. Earlier, as I was harvesting veggies for supper and sowing carrot and radish seeds for a autumn harvest, a sexy hummingbird couple who was completely enthralled with one another took a temporary interest in me, hovering over me as I bent over the garden.  The summer garden is winding down—perhaps a week more of tomatoes, the beans are done and so is the lettuce.  The herbs are still going strong but it is time to sow new carrots and radishes (and maybe beets).