women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I remember buying erasers, back when I was in grade school. I had the pink ones that fit on the end of my pencil. I had the bi-color trapezoids that claimed to work on ink, but never did. I had variously shaped novelty erasers that had come to me in school gift exchanges, back when Christmas parties were Christmas parties, and not winter holiday parties. I had a Santa Claus eraser, and a Rudolph.

Nowadays, I suppose they would have microchips in them and spout "Ho Ho Ho!" or sport a blinking red nose, as you turned them upside down and scrubbed at your mistakes. But back then, erasers were low tech. They just erased, and not very well at that. You could always see ghostly shadows of 5+3=7. Even when you knew it equaled eight.

These days, I rarely take the time to erase, preferring instead to cross out, black out, scribble over, or wad up the page like an overused hankie and launch a 3 pointer in the general direction of the wastebasket. Somehow, paper seems more expendable these days.

Or neatness, optional.

Not sure which...

But my very favorite eraser was a translucent hot fuschia number that looked like raspberry jello and smelled like I imagined a tropical isle would. It didn't erase worth a damn, but it was pretty and flirty and, to my second grade soul...

exotic beyond belief.

What has me thinking on erasers, you may ask?

(Then again, you may not give a damn, and that's OK too. Go outside, feel the grass between your toes, enjoy your fourth of July week freedom.)

Still with me?

The first couple days I was here at the lake, I overlapped my brother David and his family. They were enjoying the last weekend of their time in the guest cottage, so I stayed in the "big" house, with my father, until their departure on Sunday morning.

As I was making up the bed in the guest room, packing up my bags, and checking the lavatory for any stray toiletries that might have escaped my notice, I felt a little sad at the realization that the standard for a good guest is to "erase" all evidence that you were ever there.

And while I was erasing my presence down the hill, the same process was taking place in the cottage, as all vestiges of identity were packed away, cleaned up, or thrown out. As my sister-in-law Donna proclaimed, "All yours."

All mine. Not my brother's. Not my sister's. Not my father's. Mine.

And only mine.

It got me to thinking about the marks we leave behind. Getting your house ready to sell (yes, we still are moving - eventually) means erasing as many of those as possible.

The pillowcase I hug to my chest after my DH is long gone to work. that still smells of him. The gouges in the wall from wrestling the couch around the corner when we moved in. The scuff marks on the kitchen linoleum from little sneakered feet and drippy ice cream cones. The watermark on the ceiling from when baby boy o'erflowed the bathtub. The cat hair that drifts in the corners, no matter how many times I vacuum.

Even the dust is made from our skin particles. It is evidence of our passage through time.

All of these are things to be cleaned up and erased, so that someone else may start anew and make their own marks. And somehow that makes me sad.

So I walk up the hill and open the door to the cottage.

I see wildflowers in a milk bottle on the porch table, no doubt gathered on a walk to the bluff. I remember my SIL Tory telling me she broke the tempered glass cutting board by the sink during a "discussion" with a family member. Sure enough, it is gone from its accustomed spot by the drainboard. I hear the dryer cycling, tossing their beach towels free of sand and lake water. I open the fridge and see beer, and pop, and coffee, and ham...

And all the other things they left behind.

And I smile, knowing that none of us is ever truly erased. All of us leave our marks.

And in so doing, bless the lives of others.


Knit and fall back in it said...

The scuffmarks can be erased from the floor and the watermark can be erased from the ceiling, but they can't be erased from our hearts. That is the only place to keep your memories. No one can take them from there.

Caroline M said...

You are never gone as long as someone remembers you. My mark on the world will be in my parenting, the people I've taught to spin, and the people that have learned a neat knitting trick from me. Every time Ms X turns a heel I'll be there with her

Elysbeth said...

Very true. And nicely put.

Unknown said...

Beautifully written explanation of one of the realities of life. The other part of this reality is that you do leave a mark behind you with those lives you have touched by your existence. Just like the pop, coffee and ham.

ikkinlala said...

You put that so well.