I remember my Grandmother’s cabinet. Glass-fronted, each panel etched with a complex pattern of flowers and leaves that never quite seemed to match your memory. I had favourite knot-whorls in the surface of my Grandmother’s table, I had the grain of the brushstrokes in the paint on the walls of her bathroom memorised, but I could never quite get the patterns on the cabinet fixed. I should have had a favourite flower, or known a leaf that looked like a dog. But it went through my head, like trying to catch sunlight in a sieve.
Inside the cabinet was a forest. Willows swept their long fingers through green-white streams, bold oaks thrust their shadows across half-sketched glades, a young deer stood arched and alert in imagined sunlight. And on each shelf, glass figures. A peacock with blue swirled into its brittle tail fan. Dolphins leaping from a crystal sea. A swan whose neck I knew had snapped years before, in my clumsy child hands, its head now held on with superglue. All held behind this etched glass I could never picture.
Why is it important that I remember these panes of ordinary glass, the trifling adornments of a bygone generation? Maybe there’s nothing to this. Maybe if I can remember this I can remember everything, a key to the past. I would push against the flow of time, a silvered fish in the green-white stream of the backing paper, slipping easily back into memory. How much have I forgotten, if I have forgotten this?