Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Conkers

I just came from Dark Sparks, (linked from the right side bar over there) and he has posted a poem that reminded me of my childhood, reminded me of one of the very few good things I remember about my years in Coxsackie, New York.

Conkers.

We lived in a 4 family apartment house on Lafayette Street, and across the street was a catholic church whose name I've long forgotten. And in the front of that church was a horse chestnut tree, and come autumn, I would cross the road and collect the horse chestnuts, also known as buckeyes, or conkers. I would collect them by the basket/hand/pocket/bag/box load. Anything I could collect them in, I would. I loved the color, a deep rich mahogany, and the texture, all smooth and round, and the weight, like rocks, only... Better somehow, more beautiful than any rock I ever found in Coxsackie.

In Ken's poem, the subjects carry them in their pockets, and feel the weight of them, and because I had done the same so many hundreds of times as a child, it was like reliving the memory more than reading the words. I remember the way that my coat pockets would bulge, the way they would bounce when I ran and slap against my body, all lumpy and heavy. I remember the way they smelled like earth, and the contrast of that with the cleanliness of the autumn air. I remember feeling young and somehow free, and I remember David, the boy next door, and how I was in love with him despite the fact that he was a good 5 or 6 years older than I was. I remember believing that he loved me too because he'd let me play with him and his cars in the dirt under his porch.

I remember the big red barn that I didn't realize was once a stable, that sat behind my apartment and his house, and the dank dusty smell that would sneak out of the darkness through the empty eye-socket windows, and how they'd watch us when we were feeling brave and stupid and we'd climb the oak tree and sit on its roof and let his Hot Wheels race down the corrugated tin in their perspective lanes just to see which one would meet its death first. I can't imagine how many we must have destroyed together, launching them off the roof's edge and smashing them into the ground 2 stories below.

All that from conkers.
So often I equate that time of my life with all the bad, hard things that happened in the years I was there: My father's leaving, the bullying and constant fights for survival, the sense of desolation and emptiness, the loneliness and confusion left in the wake of going suddenly from an over-protected child of 2 preachers to the daughter of a single woman who worked too much and had discovered drinking and partying and men with motorcycles, the shock of the change from never being away from both parents at the same time to my 16 yr old sister becoming my primary caretaker. . . I honestly forget that there were good feelings and good times, and memories that make me smile.

Thanks Ken!

3 comments:

  1. The buckeye tree is the state tree of Ohio. We had (my parent's have) at least two trees along the driveway. Yes, I remember collecting buckeyes when I was a kid. These days, though, I know what a nusance these trees are. They leave gifts almost all year round. I think my dad is in the yard most days picking up the buckeyes so they wont grow little buckeye trees.

    Some time back, I did a self-portrait poem. Something about my being a buckeye...

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  2. extra large acorns, lol, without the little hats. Weird how such a strange thing got to me the way it did, made me all nostalgic, and trust me, Coxsackie is no place I've ever felt that way about before.

    I'm feeling old lately, I guess it was just the connection with youth that got to me. I dunno.

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  3. This is a beautiful post, Erin, one I feel honoured to have helped bring back to your memory and one I shall remember. The fact that writing connects us all across time and space like this helps make clear why it's so important. Thank you very much indeed. You've made my week (which is an Englishman's way of showing great emotion!).

    Just as "brock" was a new word for you, so "buckeye" is for me. I had no idea that's what you called them, even though I've heard the word and no idea that the horse chestnut is the Ohio state tree. Isn't poetry a wonderful thing? It's kind of you to give my blog a mention, too.

    I can't do much to help with the problems around your brother-in-law's illness, but you'll all be in my thoughts, believe me.

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