Palm Tree Days - My Family Travels




It is the sound of the grandfather clock, the slow chiming of life pulling away from my grasp, leaving behind things like the thin scrape of the sliding doors and the soapy smell of the bathroom. It is the end of childhood, the end of frozen Christmas cookies, the end of the tall Christmas tree that represented so much of my grandparents — tall, thin, resting and breathing in the sound of the babbling grandchildren. It is the chiming of the grandfather clock that was the bane of my childhood, and it quietly and wickedly betrayed me.
            My early years consisted of nothing but these senses. I can only remember going there, to Florida, once a year for Christmas. My grandparents’ house was the only knowledge of travel I had ever known, and thus I hold it as a prominent part of my memory. I was too young to perceive anything but the sound of the wind shaking hands with the palm trees, and the smell of the warm December air that penetrated the house and settled over the couches. My grandparents’ house was my childhood. The feeling of the pale pink glass bulbs we hung carefully on the tree and the squeak of the creaky bed will forever be in my memory. And the chime of the grandfather clock that held its cold position by the door was the silent thief stealing time from me while my back was turned.
            That was my childhood: the thump of my heels on the white walls as I performed a handstand against them. My grandpa humming the tune of some Chopin piece. The raspy sound my tennis-shoes made while I shifted feebly the white stones of the landscaping, looking for lizards. Those were the sounds of a life beginning. But in the distance, somewhere by the door, the ringing hollowness of the grandfather clock counted down to an end with each chime.
            It was that pitiless clock that finally pushed me from that place for the last time. I have not and will never return to my grandparents’ house. Though I sometimes venture outside and distantly smell that same December air, my memories of all those years ago have turned a dim blue color, casting shadows over those senses I felt, dooming to darkness the things most worth remembering. That grandfather clock will forever be calling an end to one stage of my life, tearing me from one place to toss me into another. I hear it again now, clear and shrill, though it has been silent for many years. I listen to it nowadays and have learned to heed its persistent reminders. Though waving goodbye to myself is not the easy thing to do, I live as best I can with the sound of the clock-strike, the tick of the minute-hand, the sound of the breeze whispering goodbye to the palm trees.

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