Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Grindle came to the village when I was in my 14th summer. It was only the second time he had visited, the first being long before my mother’s memory began. The villagers could not see what was happening, although some commented on the darkening of the air around them. The animals lifted their heads, and retreated to the cool dark of the woods. I saw it all. He set up camp on the beach at the edge of our village. He started a fire, hung a pot, and pitched a tent. That is when the sadness settled on the village. The baker used warm tears to activate his yeast. Poets’ words washed away on the page. Musicians couldn’t hear their own music over all the sniffling and weeping. And my mother took to her bed with a melancholy so deep I could not touch it. I brought her sweets, cooked her favorite foods, and dressed her in her favorite colors. I suggested a swim in her beloved ocean which brought a panic to her eyes I had never before seen and one she did not understand. My grandmother held vigil in her rocking chair by the hearth, knitting a blanket of seaweed, muttering under her breath, and as distant in her thoughts, as was my mother. I began to listen. As she repeated her story over and over, I came to know what Grindle wanted. On my way, I collected dragonflies unable to fly, flowers dropping their petals too soon, fallen leaves, dried twigs, shells abandoned by their living things, and began to weave them into my grandmother’s blanket. Wrapped in my seaweed blanket of found objects I asked Grindle to tell me about my grandmother. He told me a now familiar story of a young mermaid who traded her tail for legs, and her past for her future. His true love lost to the world above the ocean. Once every 100 years he visits the village, overwhelming us with his sadness, hoping she will come back to him. Hoping she will bring their child with her. I took my grandmother’s blanket, heavy with its decorations of this world, and threw it into Grindle’s fire. Turning to see my grandfather moving toward the ocean, I ran to keep up. He dove under the water and was gone. I did not hesitate as I kicked off my shoes. The ocean was cold and pulled me into her with a strength I had not felt before. I was going home.