I wrote this essay a few years ago after my parents sold their home.
by Christina Friedrichsen
I walked into my old bedroom for the last time today. The broccoli green carpet was still as hideous as it had always been. Mysterious, subtle stains, that no amount of scrubbing could remove, still marked its soft surface as they had for years.
Built-in shelves that were once stacked with books, teddy bears, pictures of friends and family, were as barren as they were when we first moved in. Soon they would be filled with someone else’s things.
As a teenager, this bedroom was my world. We moved in when I was 12, and I still slept soundly within its walls well into my twenties.
Even though it had been four years since I had moved out, I felt like the bedroom was still mine, and would always be.
Within those pink walls, my adolescence was played out. The ups and downs of puberty. The belly laughs. The big, heavy tears of heartbreak. The whispers, kept from mom and dad. The music blaring distortedly after school from a $99 ghetto blaster.
My early twenties unfolded there too. The university years. Graduation. My first real job. But it wasn’t just my bedroom that held special meaning to me: every room in the house was a library of memories. And some of those memories were still being made.
My husband and I, who live only a half an hour away, visited my parents’ home often. It was the place where the family gathered during holidays and special occasions. The place for turkey dinners with all the fixings, and George Winston on a snowy night. Eggnog and rum cake, around a crackling fire. New Year’s Eve kazoos with my nieces and nephew.
But now there was a sold sign on the lawn.
My parents, tired of the responsibilities of home-ownership, felt it was time to downsize and move into an apartment. I supported their decision. Entirely.
“It will be a great change for both of you,” I said. “You’ll have a lot more freedom.”
And I meant it.
I was happy for them. They wouldn’t have to worry about fixing things anymore. They wouldn’t have to cut the lawn, or find someone to shovel their driveway.
I was glad they could finally have the freedom, the finances, to travel and have fun times with each other. They worked hard to raise four kids, and deserved some time for themselves.
I eagerly helped my mother wrap dishes from her china cabinet into crumpled newspaper. I helped her get rid of furniture she no longer wanted. My husband and I transported boxes of their belongings to the new apartment. We drove home with things they no longer needed. A ladder, wheelbarrow, rakes, and shovels for the garden.
“We won’t need these anymore,” said my dad, bright-eyed with the energy of the move.
Every time we loaded up the car, I felt more and more detached. These weren’t my parents’ things. This wasn’t the family home they had just sold.
As the closing date grew near, I grew more and more anxious.
I even called my mom one day, complaining of shortness of breath.
“I’m feeling really anxious today,” I told her.
I didn’t tell her the reason for my anxiety. I didn’t tell her that I had been thinking about how strange it was going to be to drive past the old house, only to see an unfamiliar car in the driveway. Or how funny I was going to feel, knowing somebody else was eating in our dining room. Sleeping in my old bedroom.
After days of moping, I decided I needed closure, so I headed to the homestead for my final adieu.
As my mother was packing up the last of the boxes, I snuck off to my old bedroom to pay my final respects.
It was empty now. The closet was hollow, the shelves were bare. But the memories still flooded in.
I remembered Christmas lights. The way I’d string them around the mirror in December. I thought of how my friends and I would sit cross-legged on the bedroom floor, our faces glowing in the multi-coloured light, talking about cute boys and teachers we couldn’t stand.
I remembered the scent of cologne on the sweaters of boyfriends. Love letters, hidden in drawers. Postcards from friends that moved away. The smell of linseed oil on my paintbrush. Textbooks, clothes, scattered recklessly on the floor during exams. Dad consoling me after break-ups. Mom calling me for dinner.
Tomorrow, someone else will be standing in this room, envisioning different colours on the walls. New curtains. New carpet. Perhaps a coat of paint on the built-in shelves.
But in my mind, my bedroom will always remain the same. The carpet will always be an ungodly shade of green. And the honey-brown shelves will remain cluttered with good books and photographs of smiling loved ones.
Strung around the mirror, there will be Christmas lights. And they will be colourful. Just like my memories.
I was idling at a traffic light and I watched a woman place a wreath at the side of the road. It put things into perspective for me.
I watch as you crouch –
a wreath in your hand.
It is December.
With a frostbitten heart,
you tie it to a metal road sign,
that warns of a curve ahead.
dark as the tip of a wet cigarette,
the sky two shades paler
spitting slush to cool the fire of not forgetting.
Not a second, not a minute, not a line on his face.
And the sight of you
through my wiper blades
shuts me up.
You are the clarity of a silver bell,
ringing one pure note
in the bang, clang, clatter and hiss of my Christmas mind.
You are the star above the forty strands of lights.
The electric spaghetti with no beginning, no end.
You are my Christmas gift.
It takes us 45 minutes to get to the beach. We take the back roads. I love the back roads, especially when they are exploding with colour. I shot this yesterday on the way there. It was rainy, windy and cool – and the sky was so dramatic. Beautiful.
I was sitting on the couch late at night surfing when I saw a listing on eBay for sea glass earrings. Sea glass? What is that? I clicked on the listing and proceeded to read all about it. I was instantly mesmerized! What a great idea for an article, I thought. I landed assignments with The Globe & Mail, Acreage Life, and Antiques and Collecting Magazine.
I interviewed Richard Lamotte, author of Pure Sea Glass, and numerous sea glass collectors and artists. They had a lot of really interesting things to say, but the bug hadn’t bitten me. Not yet.
Sure, I found it fascinating, but I wasn’t exactly living in an area known for its sea glass. Why would I get involved in something that might only lead to frustration?
Fast forward two years to August, 2009. It’s a balmy Sunday morning and a damn fine day to take the family on a picnic. My husband and I loaded up the kids and headed to the beach.
While we were there, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a walk along the beach and see if there was any sea glass.
“Hey, there’s a piece of brown. Look! There’s a piece of green! And look at all the white!” Two hours later, my beach bucket was filled.
I got it home and began sorting my gems. Most of them weren’t ‘cooked’ (they had nics or sharp edges), but there was a good handful of smooth, well-frosted pieces. I wanted more. I wanted blue ones. Yellow ones. I wanted red.
It’s nearing the end of September now and I’ve got just about every colour of the rainbow. With every wee treasure that I bring home, my fascination grows.
I am a full-fledged beach gem junkie.
Photo: Blue and white sea glass by Christina Friedrichsen
Photography helps me appreciate sea glass in an entirely different way. Through the macro lens, my tiny pieces of sea glass fill the space. In their magnified state, their colours and textures come to life. The light within, fills the frame.
My love for photography makes my experience as a sea glass collector a much more enriching one because it provides me with a creative outlet. After each trip to the beach, my thoughts are always about the ways in which I will photograph my latest treasures.
I am currently shooting with a Nikon D70s. The lens I use to shoot the sea glass is a Tamron 70-300 zoom. I have my eyes on another lens. Not to mention, another camera. But these will have to wait.
Most of my shots are taken on my front porch or driveway just before sunset. I am often hastily walking around my front yard holding plates and other props and I am convinced that my neighbours (who I barely know) think I am a nutbar. I usually have a very small window of opportunity. It’s usually after supper … a time when my kids want my attention. Thankfully, my husband steps in to entertain them, so I can have some creative time.
I strive to become a kick-ass photographer. The obstacles that I am presented with are almost always technical. I am very right-brained, so learning about the technical aspects of photography and Photoshop is always a pain in the bippy. But it’s so necessary. So very necessary.
Photo: Cobalt Blue by Christina Friedrichsen
Like the world needs another blog. Like I need another blog (this other blog keeps me busy enough!), something is pulling me – like the moon pulls the tides, to create a blog devoted to my passion for sea glass.
I live in Southern, Ontario near Lake Erie. Although I feel a bit delirious when I see beaches in California, Hawaii, Hong Kong, littered with jewels, and my heart aches a little when I see the lovely jelly beans plucked from English shores, I have come to realize that the stretches of beach that I frequent are full of treasures.
I started collecting sea glass this summer when I was going a little crazy. I’ve been spending a bit too much time on the computer these days working on my online business, and I was feeling very disconnected from nature. Very disconnected from myself. Then I started going to the beach. I went there with one purpose in mind: to find sea glass. And once I found some, I wanted to find more. So I came back again a few days later. Again and again. And then I realized that it isn’t just about the glass – although that’s a big part of it – it’s about getting my butt out the door and into the Great Outdoors. To have face time with Mother N, because if there is a thing called spirit, she brightens mine.
And so I am here. Sharing my discoveries with you.
Photo: Various shades of aqua by Christina Friedrichsen