I was in the health food aisle of the supermarket yesterday, amongst the cans of beans, tomatoes prepared in various ways, and pre-made soups, when an unexpected image popped into my head: a vibrant green leaf, made of glass. It was just a fragment, but I thought I recognized it: a decoration from my Grandma Pearl’s condominium in Florida, part of a platter or maybe attached to purple glass grapes on her glass shelves. The more I turned it over in my mind, the less sure I felt that it was an actual memory. It might have been a conflation of items from a display I hadn’t seen in 25 years.**
Still, the glass leaf in my mind was so vivid and so smooth, I could almost touch it. I stopped in the aisle, no longer seeing food products, but only the image. It seemed suddenly important to conjure the rest of the picture, but it was slippery. There were plastic grapes I used to squeeze in amazement draped over some white glass vessel. There were plates and glass figurines on the shelves.
Why did it matter, anyway, this long ago piece of glass I hadn’t considered in so many years, decades? There was something luminous about it, something that lifted me momentarily out of depression that was closing in on me from all sides.
I could tell you this story about pretend grapes: Grandma Pearl liked fake fruit the way Grandpa Saul liked fake flowers. In his tiny garden in front of their bungalow in the Catskills, my Grandpa used to plant plastic flowers–garishly obvious ones–alongside the real ones. It was a silent family joke.
Or I could recall long hours (moments?) staring at the display in the Florida condo. No one told me not to touch, and I loved the feel of glossy glass. But maybe I only imagined touching Grandma’s treasures.
But it was not nostalgia, I don’t think, that buoyed my spirits. Not the return to childhood vacations, not a sojourn to a time when all those people were still alive: Grandpa Saul, Grandma Pearl, Uncle David, Grandpa Milton, Mom; even though I often do linger in their memories.
No, it was about recapturing something I owned–not the object itself, but memory of the object. My own story of my past suddenly was brilliantly alive with this beautiful (probably tacky, in real life) leaf. It reminded me of why I wanted to write, to tell my story at all. Even if no one else would give a damn about glass or plastic fruit.
I just wanted to say that the weight of not telling, of being afraid of boring people, of all my insecurities as a writer, was absent this morning as I put in my 1800 words. They came easily as I explored the mysterious item, turning it over in my mind.
Writing Prompt: Picture an object from your childhood, something you used to like to touch, or carry around, or gaze at. Try it this way: close your eyes and relax, allowing the obvious items to flip through your mind until you seize on something you don’t know why you’d even consider. Describe it in as much sensory detail as possible. Put it in its context. Muse on its significance to you then and now.