My parents’ house (the house I grew up in) contains many examples of the carelessness of youth. There are all the usual things: broken toys hidden so well they are still gathering dust undisturbed and patches of walls or ceilings long since repaired that are apparent if you know where to look. But there are also remnant peculiar to my childhood, unique experiences not shared by others. I look at one of them every time I’m in that house.
To see it, you must first stand directly in front of their refrigerator. Then take a half step to the left, one full step backward, and look up. There is a strange grayish group of splotches on the popcorn ceiling. It’s what remains of the grape jelly I managed to spill there.
When I look at that spot, I’m eight again and putting ajar back in the fridge. Aided by the condensation it had formed on that warm summer day, the jar slipped from my fingers. It hit the floor and remained upright, but the lid popped off. Jelly splattered the floor, the fridge, and me. Fortunately, the jar had not cracked and I quickly cleaned up the mess. I calmed down after finally returning the jar until I looked up. Somehow, the jar had hit the floor with enough force to shoot a splotch of grape jelly up to the ceiling, tiny purple stalactites mocking my stature and inability to reach them. As there was no way for me to clean it, I resolved not to mention it and hope no one would notice. No one ever did. My family didn’t look up much.
That splotch remained very bright and very purple for a few days. The it began to darken, eventually drying up or being absorbed into the ceiling texture. It grew less obvious over the years, it’s contours changing slightly over time, finally becoming more of a suggestion that something might have happened there.
As I reflect on it, I realize that memories are grape jelly on the ceiling and they can fade. The experiences you believe will never dull lose their sheen with the years, become distorted slightly, and the details even fade until you can’t remember their importance. Staring at that spot reminds me how much I need to treasure all the moments I have and to expend the energy it takes to see all the details. At least then, even when memory fades, I just have to look for the marks they make on my life and let it all come rushing back.