The Emerald Present, The Topaz Past

Mr. Jones patters by as I sit outside in the shade of my Grandma Marilyn’s house. A dove coos that familiar sound that reminds me of swimming here as a child, and suddenly I’m struck with the knowledge that some things change and others remain the same. In truth, this phenomenon isn’t so existential or insightful as when it isn’t actively being experienced, and perhaps is better left for the bumper sticker I likely read it from. But it’s what I feel. So bear with me.

Despite the varied assortment of new furnishings, the backyard is still the same — the pool and jacuzzi still shine blue against the brown tile; the dove calls from its telephone wire post while a sea of cactus crash in agonizingly slow motion against the wall behind the house; three pairs of goggles (deep blue, lime green, creamsicle orange) sit gathering a film of dust and weathering that only comes from years of being unused and undisturbed.

The weather is beautiful, but of course it is March. Last time, and many times prior, we were here in June/July when it was scorching and dry. But there’s a breeze today that feels refreshing and warm as I sit here in my faded Lucky Brand jeans and tank top. I feel content to be here in this moment, filled with nostalgia and relief at being done with another school term. Later, i’ll hunt a blue-bellied lizard.

My intense blue-bellied lizard hunting stance

Everywhere I look, I’m reminded of childhood. Digging in that familiar spot under the stairs, I found the Lite-Brite which both I, my brother, cousins, and mother used to play with. Pulling it from its dilapidated, fading original box was like unearthing a treasure, and the joy felt at its still functioning state can’t be described; like finding a piece of yourself you thought gone, transporting back to a time before much worry or stress. There’s something about a potentially dangerous toy that’s wonderful to play with, especially years later. The absurdly hot bulb of this particular Lite-Brite, easily a fire and burn hazard, only adds to the allure. Toys today are far safer, but those aren’t the ones you remember.


CapriSun juice boxes still fill the fridge in the garage, one of which I’m drinking now. “The Saved Turtle”, basically the first thing I ever wrote, still sits framed upstairs, having been typed in my 4 year old syntax and loosely translated by my mother. I look at the jacuzzi where once I almost died, though I have no memory of that event. The scar on my chin is reminder enough. I woke this morning to the familiar smell of grandma’s coffee, the sound of the news and the folding of newspapers coming from her room.

But not everything is as I remember.

We visited my great grandma June’s house yesterday — my mother, aunt Linda, and I. It was strange walking alone inside the now empty house, reminding me of the impermanence of everything, even that which as a child you assume will always be there. Grandparents, despite their age, hold a certain air of immortality for the young, as if they were born that way just to fulfill that role. You don’t think too hard about where their “wisdom” comes from; as if it is an inherent trait and not something earned by experience. No shells, beach furnishings, or antiques which I loved examining are left inside, nor is the kitchen in use with ingredients well past expiration date. There’s nothing but me, the floral wallpaper, and the energy within a house which had seen so many years and people. Standing inside, I feel a buzzing sensation which may be no more than residual, historical energy that would take years and new memories made within to replace. Or it could be me trying to hold onto as much as I can before leaving.

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The avocado trees stood with what is likely the last fruit i’ll ever gather from them, for which I’m grateful. They look to be dying, likely from the major lack of rain which California has seen recently, or perhaps from their own broken hearts. Once, my great grandpa Paul lifted me up effortlessly to peek inside a birds nest. I can still see the gaping orange mouths of the three chicks within. The guest house is silent, but I smile thinking of the old ViewMaster that used to be there with a black and white photo of a bare breasted pin-up girl, the first nude I can remember seeing.

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The pool is beginning to turn an emerald green from lack of cleaning; the garage no longer has tools, rusting and well worn, lining the walls. Alone inside the house, I apologize for never calling to thank Grandma June for the $25 she sent me for Christmas, saying I meant to, I’d just gotten busy. We all get too busy, and then it’s too late isn’t it? People, loved ones, don’t die at our convenience. They go when they are called, and I thank my grandma and grandpa before exiting past the topaz windows framing the front door, locking it behind me. Their house is still furnished in my mind. I’ll visit again someday.

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