As the years pass us by, memories age and fade like old photographs. Details fall away, leaving just a small snippet here and an unclear image there to mark our progress through life. While it seems we remember less and less of our past the more years we have to look back over, there are certain memories that never go away. They are like snapshots that remain as clear as the day they happened, like anchors tying us to the past.
I spent the beginning of my life in a tiny town that shall remain nameless, and had I mentioned it, there is a good chance you wouldn’t have heard of it anyway. There was little to do there, but I did remember a few little businesses we would visit from time to time. There was a bakery where my mom would buy me a donut sometimes, and I remember always wondering what the bags of bread crumbs on the counter were for (I couldn’t imagine paying money for the leftover scraps of bread you typically throw away). There were some restaurants, such as one place that always had sugar on every table in the same way that most restaurants have salt and pepper, except this sugar came in all kinds of colors. I also remember a rather tasty Chinese restaurant that had the most beautiful screens by the entrance, adorned with elaborate birds decorated with real feathers. There was also this little store that sold some rather interesting items, like empty eggshells with cute decorations inside. We still own one that contains a little hummingbird. They also sold a phone that looked like a duck, which I liked at the time, but which seems rather silly now. (Ironic, considering I am the Duck of Indeed, after all.)
Sometimes, however, it felt as if there was more to do outside of town than inside it. It was probably for this reason that my parents and I would often take walks in the wilderness. I remember many miles of empty hills and mountains where you would never see another soul. There were creeks in the middle of nowhere where we would fish for trout. There were hills covered in wildflowers during certain times of the year. I even remember immense red rocks like small mountains rounded out by the wind, with little holes along the sides. One day, we took a walk beside these mountainous rocks as birds circled overhead, which felt like a scene from a cartoon rather than real life. At one point, we even found a small animal skull in one of those alcoves in the rocks, and farther along, we looked up to find a cave probably a good ten feet up that looked most ominous indeed.
There were also old abandoned mining tunnels. I remember one day in particular, when we were walking along a path in the mountains, hills on either side of us. We found a deep vertical shaft that was fenced off, and I also remember a strange, abandoned yard with a wooden fence surrounding tall weeds. In the middle of the weeds was a purple thistle, and even though a lot of people don’t like thistles, I thought that such a color in the middle of all that mess was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
It was some time after the thistle that we found another mining tunnel, this one horizontal and fairly wide. We went a short ways in, and I remember how, on either side, there was an opening that lead to a narrower tunnel running parallel to the main one. My dad and I peeked into the tunnel on the left, and it was then that a strange sight met my eyes. On the ground to the left, probably no more than a couple feet away, was a small purple crystal-like rock. It was about an inch or two in diameter, and at the time, I swore it was glowing in the dark because its color seemed so brilliant in such a dimly lit space.
I know it seems unlikely that some crystal was left lying in an old mine so close to the entrance where anyone could have come and snatched it, but I can see it so clearly in my head that I know my memory is not failing me. It was such a mysterious, unexpected sight, to actually find something in an old tunnel aside from dirt and gravel, and at or before the age of seven, mind you. Since then, I managed to confirm such a thing’s existence when, during a visit to a natural history museum, I learned that there are indeed purple crystals that glow in the dark. And in a mining exhibit, of all things!
Maybe what I found was worth something, or maybe it was just a pretty, but worthless hunk of rock. Nevertheless, I so wish I had taken it home with me. Yes, that is actually one of my major regrets in life, that I didn’t grab that rock while it was within my reach, so that I could have physical proof of what I had discovered. It’s highly unlikely I could ever find that tunnel again, hidden away as it was in the mountains surrounding my old hometown, and even if I could, it’s not likely the rock would still be there. Either way, this is one of those memories that has never faded with time, made all the more meaningful when I had youth on my side to amplify the wonder of that moment.
What special memories do you have? And if anyone has any insights on what I saw, please enlighten me. That crystal has both fascinated and haunted me to this day!
Looking Back, That Duck Phone Would Have Been Strangely Fitting