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November 1st, 2007

Dunavska

The Glass Menagerie

A cat. A rabbit. A doe. An elegant hound dog. A pair of mom-and-puppy terriers leaning lovingly into one another.

My grandmother's glass menagerie.

They lived, the porcelain animals, in a glass-fronted display cabinet that was part of a huge old-fashioned armoire, a mammoth piece of furnituture that dwarfed me as a kid and that was the dominant piece of furniture in my grandparents' living room. I loved those glass animals when I was little. They all had personalities. The elegant white cat with no touch of colour upon it, moulded into a flowing feline shape, smooth and rounded and mysterious with the silence of Bast on it. The white rabbit with his eyes painted on in delicate brown, and a fine line where his ear,the one standing upright, had once broken off and been fixed with china glue. The grazing brown doe with her gentle dreamy face bent to nose at something at her porcelain feet. The dogs, so different - the proud and somewhat snooty striped brown-and-white hound, the two terriers with an expression of joyful abandon, sitting up on their haunches and half-facing one another, ready to prance or play or play at being a puppy and its indulgent mother. I loved them all.

Long before she died, my grandmother had a habit of occasionally wandering past some of her things and muttering something about this or that being someone's when she passed on, a sort of living will, left in her family's keeping while she still had a say in how her things were disposed. It always freaked me out - not least because as much as I loved those glass animals I absolutely and unconditionally adored her, and the idea of a world without her frankly was not a comprehensible thought to me. I could not conceive of it because I could not imagine it. She was there. She was mine. She would always be there. Wouldn't she...?... Wouldn't she...?

She wasn't.

She's been gone, oh, twenty years now. It is hard to believe, sometimes, that it's been so long - especially since I still remember her so vividly, and so lovingly, and with so much joy. I still miss her, every day. It took me a while to gather up the pieces of myself when she left me, and even then I think I missed something, I think there's still a crack inside of me somewhere, a hole where she used to be when she was still with me in this world. When she went I gathered up the things that she had said would be mine.

Three wine glasses with ornate pewter legs, one of them once broken and glued together visibly with white glue between the pewter leg cup and the glass that fits inside of it.

One small white serving plate on which I remember her slicing up bits of this or that during the golden days of my childhood.

And the glass menagerie.

They live upstairs now, in my own display cabinet - the dogs, the doe, the cat, the rabbit. They are far away from where they were born from where they lived their early lives - they followed me to three alien continents, a trace of love, their curves once touched by my grandmother's hands as they now accept my own fingers trailing across the china shapes, touching them, touching her, through them, the memory of her, the gentle grandmother who loved me and whom I loved so much.

Today is All Souls Day.

I remember my dead.