Medford, Oregon, November 14, 2015 — Some folks complain about airline food, but personally I think it’s wonderful. Not that it’s truly exceptional, because frankly I can cook lots better. But the fact that you can be served food, while sky-rocketing through the atmosphere at 16,000 feet and beyond … well, that’s amazing.
Kind of like a talking dog. He doesn’t need to say profound stuff; just the fact that he can talk at all is the wonderful thing. Because sometimes, good enough is good enough, right?
And the reason I’m thinking about airline food is that, I’m thinking about the carved box, and the reason I’m thinking about the carved box is because I cleaned my hairbrush this morning.
It happened like this —
On the Airplane
I had worked two full-time jobs — at the hotel and at the railroad — so as to earn money to go live and study in England, and now finally I was on the airplane. Because my workboots were grubby and greasy from the railroad job, I’d not wanted to pack them into my suitcase, so I was wearing rough work clothes and those brogans, a very cosmopolitan traveler indeed.
As it turned out, my good clothes in my suitcase took an extra vacation to the Caribbean Islands, but they caught up with me in England a couple of weeks later. But in the meantime I was in a very long air flight that soared over ice-sheeted lands far to the north, rocking out to headphone music, eating delicious airline food, and generally pretty darn tickled to be there.
I lived in England for about a year, then took the boat-train to Paris where a young Englishwoman helped me through the terrifying French Metro (subway) and onto a train with Spanish-speaking people where we all enjoyed the countryside through a day and a night and a day, all the way to the port of Valencia, Spain, where I lived on a boat in the harbor.
Along my travels I picked up a few small and packable souvenirs for my mother, for I knew she would treasure them. A butterfly broach, of silver wire, a wooden perfume bottle with a bone stopper, a wooden comb, and a carved box. Things made by hand, from this country or that.
Back in Texas
She did like them, after I returned, but that’s not the point. The point is, she kept them in the carved box, and in it she also put the gold-case Dunhill lighter I’d bought for her as a Christmas present when I was eleven. And after she died, in that carved box upon her dresser, that’s where I found these things.
And I have these things still, in the carved box, on a shelf just a few steps away.
I rarely open the carved box any more. But for a time I did. Because the wooden comb had the scent of her hair on it.
Over these years, the scent has grown faint. Though even now, as I step over to my shelves, lift the lid from the carved box, and take up the wooden comb, if I am careful and breathe gently, I can still recall the scent as I breath it again.
So now the carved box is closed up again.
Because Early this Morning …
Early this morning, I noticed my hairbrush, sticking out of the travel kit I keep open upon the bathroom sink. I saw that my hairbrush had a little pad of light grey-white hair. Mine.
Moved by an unfamiliar urge, I decided to clean the hairbrush, and with a little pointy thing I carefully lifted the row of matted hair from this row, and the next row, and the next row, and succeeded in lifting it as a solid object, like a page of papyrus, up away from the bristles.
As I started to toss it into the wastebasket, I noticed that it felt soft, and crushed it together in my hand, and then, catching a tiny scent, I sniffed gently at the little grey ball of my hair.
It made me smile.
The scent of my hair, and the scent of my mother’s hair, they’re the same.
The Good News
Huh. I guess as long as I’m around, she’ll be around.