They’ve been with me inside-out. It began with my birth, and continued through my growing up years, and even later, when I was too proud to listen to them.
They saw through the dust and grime when the world turned its face away. They spurred me on with my dreams. And when I failed, they stooped to pick up the ruined pieces with me. They told me about dangers, but not enough to take the fun away. And when I had had enough fun, I came back to them. You’re never finished – and never will be, they’d tell me.
I owe my hatred for chipped cutlery to them. And the love for black tea. Had the music been even, it would probably have reached a crescendo quite unlike the one I played out with black coffee, swigs of vodka – neat – and motley puffs on summer days. And what happened to the love-sick and the broken-hearted? They went to agony aunts to wash their inhibitions in the communal drinking cup.
Actually, you never really know when you boarded the bus, and when you’re out of it until you feel the absence of the music. The same people, and the same accompaniments can, at best, evoke the smells and sounds that I’m trying to re-create. However, it’s never the same. What I’m looking back at is possibly, the clichéd “youth” that people with truncated memories call beautiful.
For me, it’s far from that. I like the rough edges of youth. I love the raw and dank smell of liquor and the silently grumbling bile inside. Youth clamps opposites in eccentric bonds. Youth is hunger. Nothing but youth can spin dreams and memories alike in a fit of intoxicated overdrive. Or make poetry out of darkness swathed in tobacco smoke. And nothing but youth can throw it all away with abandon for greater frontiers.
Their faces bubble up and blur my rapidly confounding vision. They run into one another, the mothers, the daughters, and the others – and I begin, only now, to see the crafty cruelty in life’s design. Today, I’m reliving the youth I’ve spent with the various women in my life. Each of them has given me a new facet to look through at life. I may not have been grateful enough to thank them all. But here’s my toast to them, who’ve been through smoke and fire with me!