Memories for all time: #3, the first hour in Singapore

02-DEC-1978

It was a much longer plane flight than we were accustomed to. 12 hours! half a day from your life is a big deal at 9 years old. I don’t remember being grumpy. I don’t even remember my 5-year-old brother being grumpy. Probably best I don’t ask my Mum for an adult recollection of the trip.

We were charmed by the care-package of strange fluffy socks, folding toothbrush, tiny tube of toothpaste.  We’d had a smoker in our home until the previous year – so the drift from the aeroplane’s smoking section had a familiar comforting feel.

Mum had prepared us for moving to Singapore by teaching us to eat with chopsticks. Sliced banana in a bowl! No mere noodle, beansprout or shrimp was ever safe from us after that initiation. We were quite disappointed to discover there were forks…

So…finally the big plane lands. The doors open. A wave of soft warm moist air rolls almost visibly through the dry chill of the cabin. And the smell! A complex mixture of avgas and jungle – decaying leaves and waxy sweet perfumes dissolved in kerosene.

Down the stairs onto the warm tarmac in the sudden dark of tropical early evening. Bright lights haloed by the most Enormous flying insects, unable to dodge the tiny bats feasting among them. Strange faces and accents directing us onto the old-fashioned white bus, rattling off into the mysterious scented night….

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Memories for all time: #4, Giant Ladybirds. Ladybugs, actually

Somewhere near Sacramento, May 2006

We’re driving the tiniest Dodge RV we could hire, and it’s still plenty spacious for 2 adults – one of us is a 6-footer. Everything is bigger in the US. Of which more later.

Our start-point: San Francisco, our destination: Los Angeles. We’re driving the famous Pacific Coast Highway, starting with a run up the Napa Valley and back down past Sacramento.

It was a wonderful trip. The Napa Valley section was my secret homage to Ursula K. Le Guin’s not-quite-novel “Always coming home” which might be going to be set there. Without meaning to, we found ourselves driving past the great wind farm that had caught our eye from the air days earlier. The turbines are giant ballerinas, dancing a graceful slow twirl in the light air of evening.

Near the wind farm we found a “park” where we could camp, or rather, a permitted open area to park the Dodge and feed the shower with quarters. Not a tree in sight to break that constant breeze ruffling the endless acres of bleached wheat grass.

In the morning, eating breakfast at the massive concrete picnic table, I suddenly realise I am sharing the space with dozens of ladybirds. Or, since we’re in America, Ladybugs. They deserve the capital letter because they are HUGE. Each one the size of my fingernail, more orangey than the l’birds at home, but unmistakably my ferocious, spotted totem insect.

Memories for all time: #2, plane journeys

We’d been flying Auckland to Oamaru to visit grandparents as long as I could remember, at least once a year. A plane to Christchurch. A much smaller plane for the flight Christchurch to Oamaru – with a brief bounce at Timaru, if you can believe it. Grass runways at both these small airports.

The pilot stayed overnight at the only hotel, and flew back the next day. He (always a he!) was always a friend, and welcomed my small brother and me into the fascinating crammed cockpit for pre-flight inspection.

The little plane flew low and the South Island sky was always clear. We cherished our turns at the window seat and were utterly fascinated with the landscape – mysterious braided rivers, dry hills, endless straight roads, crawling cars and tractors, tiny cows and sheep. Later we would drive through that landscape – unbelted between the grown-ups on the front bench seat of Granddad’s big blue Holden. To this day I cannot comprehend how anyone can be bored on a long car journey, or ignore the miracle of physics that lifts a machine into the sky.

Some early mornings on the return flight there were crates of tiny yellow day-old chicks in the rear of the cabin. Being ferried up to Christchurch to begin their miserable lives as battery hens, no doubt.  I can still hear their tiny peeping calls over the roar of the propellers.

Memories for all time: #1, the shower

Once upon a time,

…not a vague time, exactly remembered. I was 16, a straight-As student at Carmel College, in the home of my favourite class, the Biology lab, at the end of 4th period on a Thursday late in April.

Cleaning the blackboard at the front of the classroom. Behind the long teachers’ bench that ran across the podium. So neat, that broad space. Territory of of our clever, confident, stylish young teacher, who could use words like “envaginate” without blink or blush and made us all feel we were capable of comprehending anything.

There on the scratchpad, in small flowing script:

I cry in the shower, the falling water hides the sound of pain

It was impossible to look away. My eyes were as caught as my breath, as my heart thudded with a strange mixture of pity, contempt and fear. I will never forget that moment.

Then, I didn’t understand, though I felt the powerful pull of recognition.
Now, I know exactly that feeling.

Then, my teacher seemed another class of human, so far advanced from my own immaturity.
Now, I’m 20 years older than she was.

The great difference is that the contempt and fear are (mostly) gone, gentled with experience and compassion. And I’ve learned to let the water wash away the pain. I hope hers is gone too.

Blogging every day of June?

well, not so much. Life got so interesting to experience there was little time to write.

There was, in no particular order:

singing in Carnegie Hall,

shopping in SoHo – 5 pairs of shoes & nearly 3 specs frames,

art at the Guggenheim, with a side-order of deepening friendship, an opportunity to share timethat real life at home would never allow,

antiquitity and fearsome modernity at the Met, with another friendly bonus,

dancing to the blues till the small hours of the morning,

joining a party and having a fun little flirtation,

a glimpse of what’s the big deal of mirrored buildings

…and all this before I got to the really serious bit. It will be weeks before it’s all caught up. Patience, grasshoppers

Letting go, holding on, going on – the 7th blog of Christmas

2010 has been a bittersweet mixture.

Some truly awful times come to mind, although I’m pleased that they don’t stay there for long. Sadly, in learning to let those things go from my thoughts and memories, I’ve often lost sight of some very good things. In the new year, i hope to learn to hold on to the good bits.

So many potential great experiences await in the next 52 weeks. Some are known already. 2011 is the year I will sing in Carnegie Hall! There are some amazing quilts lurking in my sketchbook. I know I will make some of them, in some form. Other experiencess wait to be invented, and some will sneak up and surprise us.

Stepping up, stepping out, going on

Are we piecing?

Does this writing piece us together, or am I making a wholecloth?

As a comment on this post, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn’t matter if you know me a little or a lot, anything you remember! And if we’ve never met in real life, leave me a comment of your favorite post I wrote and why it was your favorite.

Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. If you leave a memory about me, I’ll assume you’re playing the game and I’ll come to your blog and leave one about you.

Blog-tag, KFB!