Thursday, November 13, 2008

jellyfish

Have I told you about the jellyfish at Hendricks Head?

When my dad became a preacher in 1985, he was assigned to a small fledgling church on the coast of Maine. We were living in the small town of Pawlet, Vermont at the time. We packed up and left our little house for good and headed off to Boothbay Harbor. I was just five years old.

We spent two years in Boothbay. They were magical years, despite some of our less-than-magical living situation. We lived first in a house in town. We were on the first floor and our landlords lived on the second. They were fighting all the time. Sometimes the little girls would come downstairs and stay with us until the fighting was over. Sometimes their mom's boyfriend would throw things out the window. I had the chicken pox in that house, after we went to England to see Gaffa for the last time. I think I got it from the cousins. I remember laying on the itchy couch and just couldn't get comfortable. Gaffa died shortly after. 

Eventually we moved out and went to live in a rusty old trailer right outside of town. One of the bedrooms was an addition and through the seam in the floor, you could see the ground below. That was where Hannah performed a seance with spaghetti and grape eyeballs. We all got in trouble. That was also where I got hit by a car riding my bike. I wasn't hurt, but the old lady driving the car had a scare.

The garden filled up with mud every time it rained. Mummy couldn't bring herself to tell Granny about the trailer.

We found solace in nature. We took swimming lessons at the Y and became very good little fish. So Mummy would bring us to the beach on Southport Island and let us swim far off to the back of the jutting rock that became an island surrounded by water during high tide. There, where the beach dwellers looked like baby crabs in the distance, we swam admidst the bulging beards of seaweed that swelled with the moving water. 

We were spooked by signs of life down below and scrambled onto the rocks, being careful not to slip in the slimy seaweed pods. There were mussels and crabs hiding beneath the seaweed tendrils. We knew, because in low tide, when their mop tops were pale and dry in the sun, we'd walk out and flip them upside down to reveal the wet squirming bugs beneath. But somehow, covered in dark ocean water, the tendrils came to life and were something less than friendly. 

On top of the small island, we'd run along the worn dirt paths and play "Let's Pretend"—an imagination game we made up on that rock and haven't really played since. "Let's Pretend" belongs to the rock at Hendricks Head. 

The road that takes you to Hendricks Head goes right by the beach where we played on the rocks. During high tide, the water rises all the way to the road, and the only thing separating you from the sea is a stone wall. At certain times during the year, hundreds upon hundreds of jellyfish congregate there to spawn. Some are left behind in the sand when the water recedes, so you have to be very careful where you walk, lest your feet get stung!

One night, my mother brought us there to watch the jellyfish. Have you ever seen a sea of spawning jellyfish at night? They glow electric blue. And the beach is transformed into a galaxy of stars, like a mirror of the sky above. It's pure magic.

I don't know what made me think of the jellyfish today or Hendricks Head. But I did, and then I wanted to write it down, so I don't forget. Although, I can't imagine that I ever would. Those memories are so clear in my head—they're unforgettable.

4 comments:

Sallybagz said...

I love it when you remember! Not the old trailer, though! I'd like to erase that part! Although, many amazing things happened there, too. A Baltimore Oriole brought his wife to my bedroom window, which was so tiny, you could hardly see out of it. They sat there and sang. Then they built their hanging nest over the garden that filled up with water when it rained...not mud! The ducks would come and swim on the paths between the raised beds. It was at this most awful of 'homes' that I created my most beautiful of smocked children's dresses that I made for a lady down on Cape Elizabeth. I've never been able to grow sweet peas like the ones that grew on our fence there. I remember Concha's Mom coming to visit and we sat outside in the sun, and I wouldn't let her see inside. The previous owners had had a gazillion cats :-(

Hanushka said...

Yeah, the trailer was kinda gross, but Emmy got her own room, and the boys next door had an a four-wheeler. That was fun! By the way, the seance was with bread and salt & pepper water at 99 townsend. And that bike was mine, ho. (I'm glad you didn't die...)

Penelope Wall said...

Okay, so maybe some of my memories are a little hazy. I was only 6 years old!

glimmering prize said...

penelope-you are such a fantastic writer. your story was so vivid and real to me- truly amazing. thanks for sharing it. it reminded me of my own strange childhood in up- up state new york and the games i played with my sister.

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