I can’t sleep. It’s almost 1am and I’m lying in bed thinking about a townhouse complex tennis court I often drive past. The linked buildings that partners the court were built in the 1980′s and they’re covered in brown siding that looks like chocolate once it’s frozen. The homes have frozen also; no one has weeded the large planting beds separating the units from the sidewalk where modernity passes by on skateboards and electric scooters, and the one-car driveways are filled edge-to-edge with square late-model cars, 15 years past the showroom regardless of the calendar. These are cars for large families with small budgets. These are sensible cars.
The tennis court sits to the left of the central square. The fence surrounding it is very high,12 feet or more. It’s meant to keep tennis balls from bouncing into the street but there is no need. No one plays tennis here. No one ever has. People who drive sensible, late-model cars to factory jobs don’t have much use for tennis. Two rusty and torn hockey nets of different sizes are pushed against one end of the court. The game has been abandoned, probably owing to the cracked asphalt surface inside the fence. The Ontario winter has taken this unused court in her hands and crumbled it like a cracker.
Behind the tennis court is a concrete pool. You can’t see it from the street but I know its there. When I was very young I swam there with a friend whose name I’ve long forgotten. We went to the pool by ourselves with towels around our shoulders and cans of warm pop in a plastic grocery bag. I can remember the delicious smell of pool chlorine and hot concrete and I loved how it would dry in my hair so I could take it home for later. Pools don’t smell like that now. That summer smell makes me long for the childhood freedoms we didn’t recognize or appreciate until now, when we no longer have the time for such indulgences. But what seems worse than the loss of time itself is the fact that we can’t press the full weight of our memories onto our children. A parent’s story can only sit on the surface of a child’s mind, because children mind’s need room so that they can be inscribed with their own histories. Our memories are ours alone and they will fade and disappear when we do. This is what keeps my eyes open tonight long past the time they should have closed.
I cried today when I opened my spice cupboard. It was the cumin. Cumin is heavy and falls to the bottom of a dish, but it doesn’t hide. I made my babies a soup spiced with cumin for many meals when they were small. I fed it to them with a spoon and they would bite at it, eager for the taste. I made that soup so often the pot became stained from black beans and spice. I made that soup often because they loved it, and I loved feeding it to them even when they were capable of using spoons themselves. But I’m glad I did, because they don’t eat it any more. “It’s too heavy,” they say. They “don’t like cumin anymore.”
I don’t know why I still keep the glass spice jar full. I haven’t used that spice in a long time. Maybe if I throw the jar away then I will forget how they once loved cumin, how they were once babies who bit at a spoon and made messes and that I once stained a pot making soup.
I put the jar back on the shelf. I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and I close the door.