Monday, 27 October 2014

The Memory

A single light, hanging delicately by an old wire, illuminates the cold and narrow underground space. The length of the room is filled with shelved musty books; dust covered ornaments and rusted trunks line the opposite length of wall space.
Two figures, a mother and daughter have been working away that morning, sifting through the forgotten family history. Cassie, mid thirties and her eight-year-old daughter, Tina, side by side they work, pulling objects out of dormancy, judging and adding to piles. Be it trash, or treasure.
Once in a while the shuffling silence is broken by a little voice, “Mamma, what about this? Should this go?” A pause would follow and a murmur of judgement as Cassie assesses the vintage object her daughter has placed under her nose.
The two busy females take a rest and eat a lunch upstairs, prepared by Grandma. After some ham and cheese sandwiches, a cup of tea, and apple juice, recharged, they return to their processing. By then the afternoon sun has just begun to reach the entrance of the repurposed wine cellar.
Light from outside touches a trunk positioned close to the stairs. Tina sits before the trunk and unlatches it, but it will not open. Cassie then crouches down and gives the lid a vigorous jostle. The hinges groan, and the trunk’s now at last open.
Revealed within they find a pair of black roller skates, old 80s vinyl singles, a film developer’s envelope filled with photos and negatives, rolled up rainbow socks, and a miscellaneous pile of smelly clothes.
Tina picks up one of the worn skates in both her tiny hands. “These smell funny. Mamma, are these yours? Oh and look all this other stuff.” Without waiting for an answer, Tina puts down the skate and runs her hands through the brightly coloured clothes. She picks up the photo envelope, opens it out and begins flicking through the photos.
Cassie picked up the other matching skate and leans over Tina’s shoulder as she peruses the happy snaps – a Birthday party at an old roller skating rink. In the photos a much younger Cassie is surrounded by some of her classmates, with skates on their feet and about to eat cake. She is wearing a Punky Brewster shirt. Her parents have given her a pair of brand new skates. She is so excited, no longer needing to rent the rink skates.
The cellar surroundings begin to slip away. Cassie is lost in a memory. One she had almost forgotten.
*
It is the smell of hot chips, candy, leather, and oiled metal filling the room, but she is no longer sitting on the floor of the repurposed wine cellar. She is on her feet and in her new skates. She is nine years old again. One song is fading and the lights are dimming. The mirror ball dangling from the centre most point begins to spin as newly flicked beams glance off its mosaic like mirrors.
The needle settles into a groove of another record. The first couple of bars crackle through corner speakers and a masculine voice gently resonates across the room, “Now, I had the time of my life”. Everyone is out on the floor moving in a single direction. Round and round — spinning with the dancing light in the darkness.  She imagines the swirling lights to be fairies from some roller kingdom. This is her kind of magic. Here she is happy and safe. There is no yesterday, nor a tomorrow, only her self and her skates. She is having the time of my life.
*
The moment is passing and Cassie feels something pulling at her, drawing her forward.
“Mamma, what is it? What’s the matter?” Tina has her hand on Cassie’s arm shaking it.
Cassie shakes her head, as if to clear the residue of the recovered memory. Her mind is caught between what was and the present. Tina reaches up and wipes one of her eyes.
“Mamma you’re crying.”
Cassie smiles at her worrying daughter, “It’s alright. I’m fine. I just had — I just had an incredibly vivid memory. Something that I had long forgotten came back to me. And it was something that made me very happy. That’s all. Don’t worry about your mamma.”
“Were you being silly?” Tina asked with all seriousness.
Cassie laughs out loud and rubs the top of her daughter’s head, “Yes! Mamma was being very silly. Now lets get back to the clean up, shall we?”
“Okay, but can I keep these?” Tina picks up the skates holding them up for her mamma to see. “I want to play with them.”
Cassie is bouncing an idea around in her head. It has been a very long time since she last skated. ‘Could I do it again?’ She stares at Tina for a moment, “I have a better idea. How about we take the whole trunk home. Would you like to hear about my skating days?”
Cassie is responded with energetic nodding from her daughter.
*
The scene has changed. It is Saturday night and many weeks have passed since the cleaning out of the cellar. A current radio hit is blaring out of the speakers, and the smell of hot chips and popcorn permeates the air.
Cassie leans forward on bended knee, firmly lacing the skates on her daughter’s socked feet. The skates are cleaned, oiled with wheel nuts adjusted. Tina is wearing her mamma’s old skates. Not to mention the mercilessly nuked in Nappi-san eighties clothes that had been hidden in the trunk.
On Cassie’s feet is a new pair of skates — white, shiny and tight, with the anticipation of being worn in. Pulling her daughter to her feet, they pose together as her husband takes a photo of them.
Tina points to a pair of sneaker covered feet, “Daddy, aren’t you going to skate too?”
With a nervous smile and a quick glance to the rink, her Daddy shakes his head, “Maybe next time. I reckon your Mamma will need to give me some lessons before I step out there. But I’ll be right here watching you both. You can give me a wave when you get out there.”
Cassie gives her husband a kiss on the cheek, then slowly and a just little awkwardly leads their daughter out into a rink opening. They are joining a party of families and couples that have already taken flight in a circular pattern. Nervously Tina chooses to cling to the outer railing. She doesn’t feel confident enough to be amongst all the other larger skaters. She’d rather figure this skating business out for herself. Cassie doesn’t argue, because she recalls being exactly the same when she first strapped skates to her feet decades ago.
Cassie rolls onward, skating a few laps, letting her daughter see how it can be done. Holding on to the rail and moving forward at a snail pace, Tina watches the other skaters, and most especially her Mamma in awe. Changing her mind she decides to not do this alone after all. Waving for Cassie’s attention she releases her hold of the railing and reaches out to her mamma. Cassie sees her daughter and meets her the rest of the way. Holding hands, unhurriedly they skate around the rink, letting everyone else pass them.
To Cassie the music pumped out of the speakers is new, but that is the only thing on the skating scene that has changed over the myriad of years. Everything that she loved about skating as a child is right here. It is all waiting to be tasted and felt all over again. And now it is something she can share with her daughter.
The skate session nears to an end and the disk jockey makes an announcement — he will play one last track. It is a golden oldie. The compact disc begins to spin. The first couple of bars of a song are heard and a masculine voice gently resonates across the room, “Now, I had the time of my life”.

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