Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sands of time...

My writing partner and I have reconnected and we have decided to write in a slightly different vein. Rather than simply giving each other words, as a challenge, we have decided to give each other "memory" suggestions. Yes, they may still be words, but they have to be connected to personal memories - definitely a challenge for me, as I tend to lock "things" away, avoiding the personal - so here I am baring my soul!!

Our first writing for this challenge will be on the memory of "sand." 

Well, my first recollections of sand are of a sandbox my grandfather made for me in our teeny-tiny backyard on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto. My grandparents owned an attached house that was 17' wide, so yes, everything physical was either very small or overstuffed and out of proportion. However, to a child, as long as there was love, harmony and a place to play, it was a perfect world.

My best memories of sand are also of summer. I vaguely remember a trip to Lake Erie, when I was very young. I remember losing a small wooden boat in the waves. Why there was not an adult there to retrieve it, is still a mystery. There were also more mysteries buried in sand, when my parents bought a small cottage on Lake Ontario in an area called Fairport Beach. This was not a holiday house, for us. It was meant to be our year round home, until the realities set in. There was -

1. No potable water. We had to fetch buckets of drinking water from our neighbour's well.

2. No flush toilet.

3. No bath and only one sink, which was in the kitchen.

4. My parents didn't own a car and the bus to anywhere was a two mile walk.

Although our indoor arrangements were limited, our outdoor amenities were amazing. I remember the long stretches of sandy beach, the endless sky meeting the boundless water, the piles of pebbles, the masses of driftwood, and the small pools of a million tiny minnows. This was nature's wealth to share with those who saw her riches. The beach itself was a playground of a different sort. There were just a few of us - my sister and I, the five Morrises, and the three Menarys, ranging in age from about three to eight. We climbed the cliffs, waded into the frigid waters of the lake, built homes of driftwood and lit small fires in the sand to smoke "punk" - small bits of driftwood that looked like cigarette butts - pretending to be adults. In fact there never seemed to be an adult around. Fathers were at work and mothers were at home. We roamed like the free spirits we were. 

However, not all was as idyllic as it seemed. On the steep headland that dropped down to the beach were pockets of clay. A clever trick the older kids played on the younger ones was to lead them across the cliff to a slippery patch of clay and let them struggle there, screaming for help. I remember it was terrifying. There was no foot hold and the drop to the rocky shore was at least 10 feet. Even if you managed to hang on to a weed or two the older kids would push you back onto the clay. My sister and I must have screamed so loudly that someone ran to get our mother. The others took off leaving us there looking like helpless prey. Fortunately, my mother, with a great deal of effort, was able to drag us off the clay and onto the rocks. She was not pleased. We, of course, were blamed for not being smart enough to stay out of trouble.

There was another nasty trick I remember, an older boy playing once or twice, as well. He was a fat-faced bully with squinting eyes and yellow teeth who would purposely start an argument with you near the edge of the cliff. He would inch forward accusing you of stealing or calling him names. Your natural instinct was to step back from his imposing figure. In the heat of the argument it was easy to lose your orientation and step back too far only to fall off the cliff. I think it was the sand that saved me. Yes, when I came home crying, I was punished for being stupid enough to put myself at risk. My mother's heart was made of rock not sand.

We didn't last long by the lake. I went back to live with my grandparents, when I started school and my parents moved with my sister to a small flat in Toronto, renting out the cottage to another young family. We traded the sandy shores of the beach for the concrete streets of the city, exchanging a wild and dangerous freedom for the confines of verandas, sidewalks and sandboxes. In my mind, I know that this safety was better, however, in my heart, I still yearned for the freedom of the timeless days, the endless reaches of the lake and the eternal stretches of sand with their breathtaking challenges.

Have a timeless day.

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