It occurs to me as I drive along River Road that the reason Dad doesn’t want to go get the glass is that he doesn’t want to see Bridget.
Poor, crazy Bridget, whose glass shop in Kits was one of the few places Dad would ever go to hang out. She was a blonde beauty, with a ringing laugh and a broad Irish accent that made me think of sunlight, streaming green down through willow leaves. I remember going there as a very small child, petting the anemic-looking Maltese and surreptitiously licking the bright glass rounds Dad used as grapes, in our stained glass grape lamp. Purple should have tasted grapey, but it was only the smooth nothing of rounded bumps of glass under my tongue.
When we went to get some glass for a replacement lamp in my brother’s bedroom, my mother had been dead for a year and a half. The sun snaked through the grass on the dyke and I loved how close to the boats Bridget’s new shop was. There had been others in the interim, between Kits and River Road, but Dad had been too busy for glass.
Bridget had clearly come undone. Her son had perished in (was it?) a mountain-climbing accident, and her peat-soft brogue was stronger with whiskey and that strange, Celtic brand of religion that comes only to those grieving hard. Dad had come to her for comfort and all she gave was madness.
Today I drive past the address. I can see heavy-duty construction going on inside, but no glass.
Stopping, I walk back and ask one of the labourers about it. He speaks like a Beatle, and he doesn’t know where Bridget’s gone. I suspect that her insanity has sucked her down a black hole, down, down into nothingness, where the pain can’t get her any more.
Since neither dad nor I know another glass shop to go to, I have to re-orient and grab a phone book.
I find the other place. The palm-sized samples are up on lighted racks. There are hundreds of different colours and colour combinations. For a while, I simply enjoy the colors: Celadon, Cerulean, and Cerise swirl. Eggplant and Ebony entice. Cobalt and crimson make me dizzy with their vividity.
As much as I want to play my old game of walking around using different panes for glasses, and looking at the world, I am looking for a specific shade. It’s got to match the arborite in the kitchen. It’s got to go with what Mom picked out: Chateau Blue.
The year I turned ten, the palaver over what colour arborite should go in the kitchen dominated our house. Mom had several little panels with slightly different shades of blue on them. She’d pore over them at the kitchen table with coffee and a cigarette. She asked my father, my brother and me daily which one we liked. She asked friends, strangers in the doctor’s waiting room, and people at Welco Market, our local grocery store.
She settled on Chateau Blue. I can sill her her voice, declaring, “A blue and white kitchen always looks fresh!” She was right. It does.
I should explain: I am buying stained glass to replace a pane in a custom-fitted window. The glass that was there was purloined on some outing before I was born, smuggled home in Dad’s MG Midget. That glass was fitted into a custom-built, east-facing window in our kitchen, where the rising sun would light it in a blaze of colour every morning. That glass was special: It was a magical splashy swirl of every colour ever invented. It glowed like a jewel in or kitchen. Now, one day it’s destined to grace a window in my brother’s house, when he and Carol are married and living professorial lives.
So, thus, my here-and-now search for Chateau Blue.
I find something that’s not perfect, but I think it will do. I look long and hard at it, not thinking about resale value, but thinking about those little panels of colour my mother stared so hard at. Which one is perfect?
Driving away, I get a flash of memory. I’m about eighteen and I’m watching the colours of the window change as sun and cloud move across them. My eyes are drawn, mesmerized by a little spot on the panel of glass.
I’ve found it, right there in the glass: Chateau Blue.