Friday, 1 April 2011

April Fools

When I used to ask my grandfather, an old retired paleontologist, what my grandmother was like when he met her, because I loved my grandmother more than anyone alive on earth, he would always respond with a question of his own. 'Which time?' he would ask. Later, when I was much older, he would liken his answer to those overlain cave paintings he'd seen--entwined lion tails or horses flank by flank--carbon dated whole millennia apart. The fact was, my grandparents had met, fleetingly, a number of times before settling on one another, before impressing themselves fully into each others lives. Afterwards, always remembering one another fondly, but never quite managing an actual relationship, at least not in the traditional sense. For years and years they were more like acquaintances, stumbling past each other, wielding various obstacles like so many rain-dampened parcels: other people they happened to be dating at the time, mean geographical differences, conflicting job opportunities. They would meet, take a breath together, then be on their way again. A whole narrative of quickly taken coffees, nervous updates, and pregnant pauses. Awkward farewells at bus stops, postcard gestures. But still, still, the lingering in the memory, the smiles and the adoration they kept to heart. Once, grandfather told me, he had spotted her faraway in the British Museum, between the mummies and papyri, and felt as though he could marry her there and then, right in that cool and hallowed room: but the marriage, in fact, didn't happen for another decade, in Sienna of all places. Sometimes I think of them, these separate people, still young, still yet to become themselves and lying in their separate beds at night, worlds apart, and yet their future lives so entwined, the souls of one another burning secretly somewhere on the horizon. Their love, extended and timeless, like caves waiting to be discovered, pyramids lying in wait. 


  1. My search began with a quotation by Klee that I used to use in teaching painting, something about "adapting oneself to the contents of the paintbox." In that marvelous way that the internet has of diverting all our searches into other roads I found your blog and this post. Your words and your story are beautiful and moving. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Frank. I really do appreciate it. I'm glad you stumbled across this little pebble-strewn path, and enjoyed its waywardness...And the more I read about Klee, the more I appreciate his work...The quote you were looking for gets mentioned in a passage by Annie Dillard that I transcribed earlier.