Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almost There

"The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it."
-Mignon McLaughlin

Mater is a steady source of inspiration. In requesting sparks of writing ideas from my mother I have found her to be constantly unfolding new items; even if they are not quite on the same train of thought as I had planned then her advice sets me onto another, equally hopeful track.
She mused on a story I know well but had long since neglected to think of: years ago a cousin of mine was cycling with her young son near their home.
They sailed over the brow of the hill- I must stop for a reminiscence: what a hill. I can clearly see the spread of patchwork fields, the faint outline of a distant farmhouse down in the valley, the unkempt mass of thorns and brambles that brushed the mother and son's shoulders as the two wheeled idly over that well-worn and narrow road with its caterpillar of grass rising up through the middle.
The son, who might have been eight at the time, was leading. He suddenly turned his head into the wind to ensure that his mother was still there. He shouted, in a most spontaneous moment, that his mother, at a certain angle and with the right shade of dusk upon her, looked just like yours truly. I had long been said to bear a resemblance to my cousin but it was a sudden and fleeting glimpse that the child caught.
I was not there; I heard tell of it soon afterward, and of my cousin's amazement.
I know the tale well, as does Mater who a short time ago related it to me.
"Do you remember," she said, "we were all walking, and he shouted that she looked like you?"
"Were you there?" I asked with some skepticism.
"I was there! We were walking. You were there too!"
"Nobody was walking," said I. "They were on bicycles, and they were alone."
"No," insisted my mother slowly, "I was there."
After a short pause, she added, "or was I? You know, maybe I wasn't!"
One has to love a story that coasts merrily along through the mists of time without losing its colour, a story that one hears so often and so well they might as well have been there.


Pappy said...

The metamorphosis of lore to legend is a very natural progression. As the years go it is hard to remember what is fact and what is blarney. I honestly can't remember the truth in the details in some of my stories anymore. This phenomenon has been a problem with oral histories since time began. Pappy

Beth said...

It is what makes storytelling so enjoyable as well as eyewitnesses so unreliable in court.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Texican, that's the beauty of storytelling. In the end it doesn't matter if Mater was there or not (she wasn't) but the story managed to last so long she made herself a part of the scenery.

Beth, true- it's not that the eyewitnesses are lying as such, more that they bring themselves to believe something. I watch 'Twelve Angry Men' frequently and always love the part where they talk about the old man on the witness stand who convinced himself that he had seen and heard important things. They clarified that he wasn't lying, but had been telling himself for so long that he didn't remember any more.

Pauline said...

Our whole lives are stories we make up as we go along. I loved the little pause in the middle to describe the hill - you are a wonderful story teller yourself!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline, thank you! It's a beautiful spot she lives in- as in the picture-I had to mention it.

Nan said...

It's like photographs of an occasion. Do I remember it or do I remember the photo?

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Nan, that's just it- and when does it stop being important? If you have the image in your mind, maybe that's enough. It won't change anything.

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