The summer that I was 14 was not my favorite summer. I guess I was supposed to be excited to be starting high school in September. But our ninth grade was in the same building as grades 7 and 8 in the configuration known as a junior high school in the days before middle schools. It didn’t seem like a big deal to be a freshman in the same building.
My father had gotten very sick the summer I was 10. He had a brain tumor and when they removed it he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. I was 10, and that was the last summer of my childhood.
What set me down this sad nostalgic path to the past was a calendar reminder on my phone that today is the 14th birthday or anniversary of this Weekends in Paradelle blog. That’s almost as hard to grasp as how many years it has been since I was 14.
Weekends in Paradelle started July 30, 2008. I was still toiling full-time in the fields of academia. Actually, I had recently changed jobs moving from one college to another college to direct a writing initiative that was a five-year federal grant. I thought then that the grant would carry me to a point where I might consider retirement from classrooms and campuses, but the end of that grant didn’t mean retirement. But that’s a different story.
As you can read in the first post on this blog, I intended this to be a place for things that didn’t fit on other blogs I was using. More personal, I suppose. It took a month to two to find its place.
The”paradelle” part comes from an invented poetry form – part villanelle, part parody. It is a form I have tried my hand at writing. rather difficult.
The “weekends” was my idea of controlling the posting and limiting myself to Saturdays, Sundays, and sometimes Friday nights. I’ve stayed with that except for the occasional celestial observation that occurs during the week. A Full Moon on Wednesday will get a midweek post.
“Memory is partly fact, partly fumes,” writes Norman Lock in A Fugitive from Walden Pond. I picked up that novel at one of the local leave-a-book-take-a-book Little Libraries in my neighborhood. It was the title that hooked me, since I have been a Walden fan since I read that book the summer I was 14. That’s just one of those many synchronicities.
I didn’t know it was the fourth book in Lock’s historical novel series. It is about a slave, Samuel Long, who escapes from Virginia, and travels the Underground Railroad to Massachusetts. In Walden Woods, he meets Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other transcendentalists and abolitionists. Having made my own journey a few years ago to Walden and encountered all those characters via their homes, books, and graves, I enjoyed the read.
But is memory “partly fact, partly fumes”? Perhaps. I’ve read in several places that our memories change every time we access them. Some of the recollection is fact and i suppose you could call the rest “fumes” from those facts. Fume is an odd word to choose since it is defined as “a smoke, vapor, or gas especially when irritating or offensive.” It goes back to Latin fūmus “smoke” and it shows up in fumigate and the verb form is to be in a state of excited irritation or anger.
Happily, most of my memories are not irritating or offensive. They are partly fact and possibly partly hazy, as through smoke, and not as clear as they once were to me.
I begin another year in Paradelle, my weekend getaway. The weather is excellent today. Clear and not too hot or humid. My 2-year-old granddaughter is her on an overnighter visit. We walked to the Little Library up the block and she found a book she wanted to bring home. She had her sippy cup, we read the book, and now she’s napping as I type. This memory is all fact and partly perfumed by her.