Place Memory

Thanks again to the Isolation Journals for a recent prompt. Stephanie Danler encourages us to write about places, including what the place felt like. I was intrigued by her description of writing a place name on an index card and then jotting down notes on the back. Later, the card would evoke a sense of place that she couldn’t have summoned otherwise. 

I am fortunate to be in Valencia, Spain right now. Fortunate to be visiting family I was unable to see beyond the small screen for the past two years. Some places (and feelings) to capture-

  • The apartment balcony. Pinning laundry with colored plastic clothespins, onto the wire rack. Sun and moving air encircle me. It feels as if I have overlooked joy so many times but now I feel it, shaking wrinkles from the small shorts and t-shirts and undies of my grandchildren as I pin them to dry in the strong sun, blow in the Mediterranean breezes.
  • Coffee shop- do they recognize us from three years ago, I think I might recognize them! Café con leche and choose a pastry. I select braided buttery flakes encasing sweet soft manzana. Small thick white porcelain cup, saucer and the tiny black napkin collects golden crumbs falling. I collect them back with my finger. The baby in her stroller at the next small table on the sidewalk squeals in delight seeing the waiter. Is it him she loves, ready to squeeze her small kicking foot, or is it the treat he is bringing? Surely the baby is a regular. We like to think we are also, but less frequent.
  • In Turia park, a couple and three young children walking the nearby path, standing close together, catch my attention singing “Felix cumpleanos a ti…” as they walk. I look again and notice the small shiny black rectangle held out in front- they are singing into the phone. I wonder if it’s a grandma missing them on the other end of the signal.
  • Walking to the dock, passing a large, open but covered area. Used to be an unloading cargo house for Mediterranean ships. Now a smooth polished concrete expanse, with no walls but pillars rising up to support the painted, arched roof. Now the perfect summer evening spot for kids with bikes, tweens with skates, teens in packs of threes and fours carrying skateboards and a few couples sitting close. Groups are spread out over the expansive floor, occasionally rousing themselves up to try a trick, a smooth move on wheels. As we walk past, a young woman on roller skates leaves the building to the sidewalk. Insouciant, her svelte body leans as her wheels arc a strong curve in front of us which carries her to a perfect pause at the trash can… where she casually drops in the pinched white remnant of a joint.  Then this elegant creature in cut-offs glides away. Like moving water. Cool, so so cool, on a summer evening.                                 
Clothes dryer on the balcony, ready.

7 thoughts on “Place Memory

  1. I especially connected to the part where you remark that you consider yourself a regular at that cafe. I have that same feeling at places I frequent (even if not so very often) and it is a lovely feeling! This whole slice filled me with joy- I look forward to traveling again in the future and love living vicariously through those of you who are already on the go!

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  2. Oh, Fran, I’m so happy for you that you get to be in that beautiful place with kids and grandkids. Wow! You have explained these places with beauty and precision. I feel I can see that roller skater with your words. I like the Spanish words integrated into your piece too, and the idea that you are regulars too. Hopefully sooner than three years next time! Enjoy!

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  3. Thanks for taking me to Spain with you! Your rich description put me right there with you. This was beautiful to read. Hope you are having the best time!

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  4. What amazingly rich images you’ve brought us, Fran. I feel like I’m right there enjoying the views, the smells, the sounds. You’re inspiring me to look more, to notice more. Thank you.

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  5. Spain is a sensory wonderland. You capture so many details that will bring it all to mind again when you return home. I loved the hanging up the little shorts and shirts. Happy Grandmothering!!

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