When I get Charlotte at school there’s an Italian girl who looks big for her age who’s taken to her but in an overly touchy way, scruffing her like a puppy and squeezing her too tight, and we have to pretend we’re going somewhere else to get away from her, and take the long way home.
Charlotte says there’s a reason some people don’t have friends and you should go with those who have many, they must be better — but I caution her, those people may just go through friends like candy, it’s better to have a small group you can really connect with.
And I teach her how to say “I don’t like it” in German so she can tell the Italian girl to stop touching her and give her a chance to understand why people may not want to be her friend, and Charlotte repeats it on the way up the road in the morning.
The steps up the Himmelsleiter, the stone steps that translate to Heaven’s Ladder and lead up to the vineyards, is overgrown now with grass damp with the morning dew, and my shadow goes long on the path below; it reminds me of Peter Pan’s shadow, the production we saw in Stratford, and passing the childhood home of the author in Scotland, how the story was born from the death of a sibling, his mother’s grief, and how he lived in the shadow of his mother’s loss.
And after the show in Stratford, Charlotte and I trace the floors outside the theater on a treasure hunt to learn about the making of the production, and one of the stops features a replica of a student’s desk from that time, and I remember a friend I knew and lost in the fifth grade, who got some rare disease from a mosquito bite that made his brain swell up and he couldn’t survive the surgery, and it was Good Friday when my parents told me what happened and said they were sorry, and dad and I walked down to the creek and talked about it, but I couldn’t cry.
The teacher left his desk empty in the middle of the class the rest of the year, the same way they did in the production after Wendy’s brother dies, and I wanted to lift the lid to see if his bag of marbles was still inside so I could have something to remember him by but felt weird about it, and didn’t understand my true intentions.
And it was probably outside a large estate where we stayed in a small town near Arbroath in Scotland where I got the tick, and carried it with me on my leg all the way across the Highlands past the author J.M. Barrie’s house to Inverness, and had to Google How to remove a tick when I discovered it, but by then it was plump as an overripe berry and I broke the head off in the webbing behind my knee, and had to use a capful of good Scotch to sterilize it.
And it was this time of year we met Gilles, the Parisian who lives up the road from my mom who fled a life in California in the wine business over a failed relationship, who came here to disappear but resurfaced with my mom, because even outsiders need company — and when Dawn’s mom came that April her husband had just died in February and she was in a fog of grief, and Gilles was reading Physics, like he understood it so well he had his own theories, and told Dawn’s mom her belief in Easter, in god, was ridiculous, impossible, and her mom fled the room and it was like a stink bomb had gone off in the house, and we had to ask him to leave.
I explain to Charlotte there are people who take from you and people who give, and it takes experience to learn the difference. That maybe we’re like ticks ourselves, sometimes feeding off others, taking their blood — and how other types of people are more like bees gathering pollen, and if we’re lucky in life, we’ll make more flowers than bites.
Dawn and I spend our wedding anniversary in Vienna and go to the Belvedere for a Klimt exhibit but I’m wrung out by the weight of all the artists, their self-portraits and long stares, so much to say and the knowledge they never will, and even if they do it won’t be understood, it won’t be the same and they won’t make any kind of living out of it — and despite all that they must, they just hang there waiting to be seen.
And our kids are starting to dress like the homeless or artists themselves with mismatched clothes and holes in the knees, and I guess you better get used to that look if you want to do art, they’re two sides of the same coin, it’s one reason Bob Dylan probably got confused as a thug and stopped for questioning in a residential neighborhood after dark, he still looks dark and disheveled in spite of himself.
When we check out of the hotel in Vienna on Sunday we have an extra hour at the train station and debate if we should get an earlier train but learn that we can’t, and decide to just settle in and relax, to get a warm lunch and a pilsener — and by the time we get to the top of the platform our train is just pulling up, we’re right on schedule, it’s time to go.
This post is a continuation of one I published yesterday, with some rewrites and new content, that touches on the idea of memory and how it can change and be edited.