January 6th, 2011


Days of Mangoes, Days of Bread

I'm getting older now, a smooth boyish face lost within a mop of gray hair. Like every day before, this is the oldest I've been in my whole life, and like every day since my youth, I definitely feel very old, but these days I find myself telling stories about my clever past more and more often, perhaps at the expense of telling stories about my clever, clever future. Call it what you will!

But this means that I think back to my childhood a little more often. I don't remember when I started to be taller than my mother, because I didn't notice it or believe it until long after it had happened, but this was certainly way before then. I remember my mother crouching down to look at me, eye-to-eye. She was speaking seriously, and plainly, and her tone was one of respect -- the respect you give a child when you know the child is ready to hear adult news.

"Child, I love you and I will always love you, but I can only tell you this story once, and I want you to remember it. There may come a time when you need to tell it to someone else."

She reached down and touched my little barefoot toes, all grey and misshapen.

"Those toes of yours aren't an embarrassment. They are a mark of pride. Your mother's mother's father's mother had toes like that, only long and wriggly, and she weaved her way through the sea beautifully, sending jets of water behind her. She was famous for her talents -- she could squirt a cloud of ink to evade predators. She could change colors to become invisible. She could perform analytic calaculus before she hatched, or write a villanelle in an ancient language no human tongue can know, or repair a crystal time-boat using only ancestral knowledge."

She took a locket off her neck and showed me a picture -- like an octopus, perhaps.

"In time, you may learn to do all those things too. In time, you may learn to change those grey toes to another color. But it takes practice. Your great-great-grandmother fell in love with a human sailor, a poet-warrior of impossible cruelty, and she lured him out to sea with her song, and she drowned him, but before she did, she hatched your great-grandfather, whose visage could not be captured on camera, because his shape was beyond the visible spectrum. Your great-grandfather met a woman, a dancer with a smile like pearls and a heart full of adventure, a woman who tampered with powers she could not understand and called upon forces she could not understand, and they settled down in New England and had a house by the sea, with red walls and beautiful glass windows that gave a view of the cliffs outside."

"Grandma's house?" I asked her.

"Yes, and someday it might be yours too. Grandma was born looking almost completely human, and you and I look entirely human except for our toes, but don't forget, child. Don't forget your ancestry. Take pride in the stories, the miraculous coincidences, that led to your birth."

And she give me a warm, loving smile, and tweaked my chin. "Okay?" she asked me, wanting to make sure I understood. I could only look at her and nod seriously -- I had no words.

Those were the days of mango, the days of bread. We look at our childhood through a sunset-orange filter and sift through it for secrets and treasures sometimes, don't we?

Originally posted to my new DreamWidth recipe journal. You can comment there using your LiveJournal ID and password, thanks to the spooky Internet magic of OpenID.

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