What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. – Helen Keller
A Shade of Ash # 7 – Son of a Birch
Hope you’re having an awesome day!
Every picture tells a story or is a key to one. – Ash
Whenever I see a pile of wood by the side of the road or in someone’s front yard, it instantly takes me back to when I was kid. I believe I was around ten years old. Back that humbling day when I tried to prove to my Uncles that I was just as big and tough as they were. A coming of age moment of my life with a Shade of Ash humour that I will never forget. A bunch of wood grouped together sets the scene and some of you already know this, but I grew up with my grandparents, so my Uncles are like my brothers. There’s five of them. I made six, and the youngest in that dynamic and because of that, I was considered “Mommy’s Boy”. *I called my grandmother, Mom, by the way.
OK, Cue the wavey time-travel lines, fade to the 80’s.
Firewood was a primary source of heat for us growing up, so from time to time, that meant the whole family would have to pitch in and help bring freshly cut wood from my grandfather’s boat up to the front yard to be packed and stacked. Every now and again, my grandfather accompanied by two or three of the Uncles would travel by boat to some remote area to cut down the wood. Then, once they had a load, they would return home where the wood still had to be sawed up and stored away. None of that process involved me though. I got off the hook for stuff like that. Hey! It’s not me, my grandmother just wouldn’t have it back then. She’d look at my Uncles, each of them, and tell them to go on outside and not bother me. “Leave Ashley alone, he’s alright, go on, your fathers waiting.” She’d say. This rotted my uncles of course. Now, they wouldn’t say much in retort and just went on to work. Though like prisoners knowing all the blind spots of a prison yard, they too knew when to get in a few licks and wrestling moves behind my grandparents backs to make sure I knew what’s up. Until that one day, where I had enough of it.
A Grand Memory
I thought of you this morning while walking to work, there was something about the air, I smiled. It made me recall some random end-of-summer day, much like today. You were steaming up the harbor, towards home, from a day of cod fishing. I first spotted you on the horizon while you were rounding the point, just there by the lighthouse. As I rushed down the lane, I could hear the sound of engine puttering growing louder. There were seagulls squawking and hanging about. Like a feathery cloud, they gave chase, each desperately seeking lunch from the fish scraps that were being thrown from your hands.
A final leap, I was there, at the wharf, to greet your return. I remember how the land-wash had this tinge of salt and the watery shoreline was like looking at glass. My reflection momentarily stared back, glistened in the hot morning sun and slowly distorted as your red and yellow punt made its approach. I was nine-ish, playing some made-up game while flicking sea snails back into the ocean, starting their long journey all over again…boyish thrills. As I stood there awaiting your accent, you handed me a rope to tether the boat long enough for the daily catch to be thrown ashore. It wasn’t a good knot, good enough, I wasn’t very good at that. You’d always finish the job anyway, just before mooring the dory to her rightful place once again, anchored just far enough, wading adrift until next time. Oh, how I remember the sun so bright, high in the sky, early that morn, just like today…when I thought of you.
Miss you Pop.
By the Salt
Crusty eyes wake excited,
when mornings are usually slumbered.
Sun stretching, this early.
We leave Theresa with a wave,
You and I now,
a trip of bond.
The mist chills my face…
his dory crashing against the lap.
Posture held strong.
My imagination animated by the salt.
Few words spoken but enough was understood.
Cap to his brow, a grin in that cheek.
Surrogate father, my hero.
“Hold Me Clothes and Never Let Go”
I’m not sure why but the other day I thought about this jacket that I use to wear all the time when I was in my twenties, it was brown leather with a seventies style to it, very Donnie Brascoish. I swear it felt like it was made specifically just for me, I loved it and only got rid of it a couple of years ago. A brief history about this coat, back in the day my best friend Danny and I would visit the local thrift store on a weekly basis, it was a part of our roommate routine. We’d both spend hours combing through old vintage clothing hoping to score some new digs, well…new to us at least. Sifting through racks upon racks meticulously choosing what we liked, there were some hits and even more misses, the harder we looked the more gems we’d find. One day we were both determined to score what we thought was the pinnacle of all university student thrift shopping and that was the “vintage jacket”. It was our main objective and it wasn’t going to be easy because at the time retro jackets were a trend (we totally started it by the way). After trying on what seemed to be every jacket they had for sale and on the verge of giving up there it was, in perfect condition, not a blemish on it and even had all the buttons still intact. I quickly called dibs and as soon as I put the coat on I knew it was mine, fit like a glove in a very jackety way, best find ever.
(Crazy fact about the coat is that in the inside pocket there was a movie ticket stub that was issued in 1977, the same year as I was born and only 10 days off my birthday.)
Like I mentioned it was just a couple of years ago that I had to say goodbye to the old potential heirloom for it could not just hang there anymore serving no purpose. Finally the jacket had run its course for any need that I had for it,…it was a very sad day, I said goodbye to an old friend. I relinquished it back to the realm of thrift store purgatory where someday it might catch the eye of another retro jacket connoisseur and give someone else as much use as it did me. That coat saw me through some of the best years of my life and when I think about it, it brings back a slew of memories. I held on to it for as long as I could, I’d try to convince myself over and over that someday I would wear it again, someday, no seriously it still fit. Who was I kidding? The jacket made me look like a baby in a two sizes too small sleeper, I was clearly in denial, after a few moments alone with the coat I said a few words and placed the jacket in the goodwill bag then ran to my room crying. No I didn’t cry, well maybe a little, it was dusty in the room. No I was actually very happy that I donated the jacket back to where I had gotten it from some years ago, it had gone full circle and who knows where it might turn up next.
I bet as you’re reading this you too can recall some item of clothing that you held on to maybe a smidge too long and well past its closet expiry date. I remember pairs of sneakers where my pinky toe holes gave away the colour of my socks and ball caps having sweat stain rings but it didn’t matter because of the perfect curved peek. Looking back at my jacket, that cap and those shoes, it kind of, in a way acts like a synthetic journal quickly flashing up thoughts and memories which are forever attached to them. There are chapters of my life that can be chronologically profiled with the help of some of my wardrobe, stages of my life that can be cat-walked down a ramp as my voice narrates in the background. If you were to look through your closet now, is there anything that you just can’t throw away? Are there items that have stood the test of time because you couldn’t bare parting ways with it or maybe the emotional attachment that it may hold?
Clothing can carry sentimental value for some of us, I still have to this day a dress shirt, t-shirt and suspenders combo that my grandfather use to wear. It hangs in my closet and from time to time when I’m digging out something on a daily basis to wear I pass it on the hanger and instantly start to think about him. My grandfather must have had twenty of the same combination of that dress shirt, t-shirt, and suspenders trifecta. He certainly loved to rock the flannel, and when I pass by it at the end of my shirt rack each morning I’m glad in this case I held on to the past. I kept my grandfather’s ensemble because when I look at it, it makes me happy and when I think of him that’s how I picture him and he’s rocking the flannel as only he could. We get these emotional attachments to the clothes that we wear because quite frankly and as funny as it may seem the clothes has been there with us the whole way. That one suit we had straight out of college that helped us make it to interview after interview, that dress that has seen itself go from maid of honour duties to a night on the town, how something as simple as what we wore on a certain day can have so many emotions attached to it.
Emotions are one thing but people also care about their identity when we decide to put something on. Clothing can also become synonymous with who we are, I knew a guy in high school who always wore a ball cap and he just became known for the cap, then there was the parachute pants girl, turtleneck guy…the list goes on. I’m sure most of you can remember someone based solely on some item of clothing that they wore all the time or maybe there’s someone who you know now. I was briefly known in political science class as the guy in the green puffy vest, yes I said “puffy”…moment of silence for the 90’s puffy vests . Ok let’s forget the puffy green vest but my point is that certain clothing can define who we are or who we were. I grew up playing sports and every time I put on a jersey as a kid it felt like something I would be doing for the rest of my life. That phase came and went just as many did after, but when I see a jersey now or even get to try one on it takes me right back to the good ol’ high school days where sports consumed my life. If you take a look at who you are today as compared to whom you were there may be similarities and I’m positive a lot of differences. How has you’re style changed? Has it changed at all? Were you once a t-shirt and jeans guy and now it’s nothing only suits or maybe you’re a girl who wore nothing but black in college but now anything else is the new black.
I hope I was able to make you think a little bit with this post, sometimes when I think about something stuff just pours out. The jacket meant a lot to me sure, but realistically it was more like a time capsule that took me right back to then and there. So trust me, go through that closet or clean out your dressers, there may be some stories waiting for you to recreate all over again. That coat that I bought and the day we spent at the thrift store was a day I will never forget, and a memory like that will always be worth more than the clothes on my back.