Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Bottle of Memory

It seems I have a bottle that is full of memories. Somewhere beyond 50 years ago, my sister Elaine returned from a trip to Northern California. She was very excited, telling me of a place called Berkeley. I was a young teenager and my big sister brought me a present. The bottle seems handmade with a carving of a bamboo plant.It has become one of the very few objects that I treasure and have taken with me on many moves across and around the country. Despite over 20 moves, this bottle sits before me and with certainty gives me pleasure. When I got the bottle it's neck was wrapped with a coarse hemp rope. I recall hanging it from my bedroom wall. At times it has held flowers and candles. During the put-a-candle-in-a-bottle period of my life, stubs of candles would fall inside and I would struggle to get them out. The thought of violently shaking and whacking my bottle seems odd to me now, since I carry it about with a certain reverence. As my sister lays ill in her 77th year, the bottle is my little shrine and I will fill it with my memories. When Elaine came home from her trip "up North" from Long Beach to Northern California, it was as if she had come home from China. I had never been far from home on my own and Elaine was the adventurer going off and returning with a little treasure for her brother. Elaine told me that she had visited the University of California at Berkeley and, as big sisters will do, she told me that when I apply to college (an event 5 years in the future), I should apply to Berkeley. Who knows if Elaine was that emphatic and certain. In my memory, Elaine pointed the way with perfect clarity . She told me just what to do. Indeed, when I was older, I applied to Berkeley. I sent in no other applications. Fortunately, I was admitted and I know my life was wildly altered because of that decision. Lately, I've been reflecting on the "doors" we go through as our lives progress. Deciding to go off to Berkeley and begin a dramatically new phase of my life was a gift from Elaine. Just like the bottle.


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