A small house, at a slow curve in the road, on a slight hill, red brick, a polite garden in the back, with roses and a birdbath. Christmas on a rainy day, 1972. I am ten years old, and my uncle has given me a chess set with wooden pieces. A decade later, on a trip back to England, I mention this to him, and he says he doesn’t remember. I had expected him to remember, wanted him to. But he has forgotten, just some gift he gave to a child, a chess set that I still have today, now using it to teach my four-year-old how to play. In that old house, I had a bedroom upstairs, overlooking the garden, where I worked on my stamp collection, a hobby I’ve forgotten now, my dusty albums abandoned in boxes somewhere, though I still can’t toss an envelope in the trash without tearing off its corner to save a colourful stamp. And so I collect these stamps, habits of memory, probably to be thrown out someday. My son likely won’t want them, stamps from Botswana, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, places I’ve been and places I’ll never visit. And so this Christmas, I think of what to get for my son. Too young, maybe, for his own chess set or stamp album. I’ll probably get him a toy he’ll forget in a fortnight, or so it will seem. Or will he? Maybe years from now, he’ll come to me, his dad, and ask if I remember that gift, something that meant the world to him. But I will have forgotten, and my forgetting will hurt my child. My chest tightens. Later, I write a letter to the strangers who live in that old brick house. I want to take my son with me. I know the address.
talk of snow—
the stems of roses