One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is a birthday celebration.
I immediately thought of my 14th birthday. How I didn’t want to celebrate it. How I wanted to sit and read in my room while the party went on downstairs.
Remember those teenage years where you often felt like a stranger in your own body, in your own head, where every emotion felt like the afterburn of an explosion? Where you scoffed at things you used to like, and embraced things you never thought you would? And no one, no one got you.
A few people did get me as a teenager. My Great-Gran Min was one. She lived in Ireland and was a glass blower, an artisan. Mostly, she repaired the stained-glass windows in the local churches or made endless sets of wine glasses for hotels and restaurants but her favourite activity was to fashion what was known in the trade as end-of-day glass.
End-of-day glass is the molten leftover glass often fashioned by glass blowers into one-off pieces such as vases and bowls. A whimsical, creative outlet for artisans who sometimes felt like they were on a conveyor belt of glass-making. Some people describe the pieces made as folk art in glass.
Great Gran Min made many beautiful things from her end-of-day glass. For my 14th birthday she sent me a selection, packed up in a crate.
Blue glass. Moonlight captured and moulded. A summer sky turning dark with rain poured into a vessel and left to harden. The colour of the ocean only scuba divers see. The colour of wishes, magic and midnight dalliances. Raindrops daubed by cerulean fingers. Alchemy and ecstasy all in one.
In some of the bottles and vases I put peacock feathers – big blue eyes bursting out of a blue body. Sunlight caught in the glass, scattering and drifting over my bedroom floor like jewels or stars. When I held my hand close to the glass it turned azure, draped in silk. I was in a sacred land, of beauty, of wonder, of crystalline light.
And I knew as the blue light fell on my legs, on my toes, that Great- Gran Min got me. That she understood, that she knew what a difference the little treasures she had fashioned would make. Her treasures cheered my soul. They made me leave my room and go downstairs and join the party.
I have them to this day. I will never let them go. Sometimes when I am alone I take them out of the cupboard, turning and twisting them to get the best view. It’s not enough to place them on the table and look from a distance, they have to be picked up, they have to be held.
And as the blue light from a bottle casts its arc over the tabletop and I pick it up and experience the cool certainty of it, I know what blue really feels like. It feels like love.