A Memory of Easter Island in Gulf Shores, AlabamaThomas Beller
Gulf Shores, Alabama
He stared through the window of the TCBY Yogurt shop and claimed to see a man crying. I was holding him when he said the word, “Crying!”
“Man crying!” he gasped, pointing. His gasp did not indicate amazement so much as the fact that it takes all his effort to make a sentance. Also, Amazement. He’s not yet two. Everything is new, and therefor pretty amazing.
But is everything new?
I looked through the store window wondering what I would say to him if I saw a man sobbing in the parking lot. People get moved to all sorts of extreme behavior in these holiday environments. The parking lot was empty, though. A false alarm. The street, the lawn, all empty of men and women, crying or otherwise.
But he insisted. He pointed.
I looked again.
And then I saw, across the highway and some distance down, that a miniature Golf place had built a replica of one of the Easter Island statues. This Easter Island Man was rendered in a bright flourecent green. I am tempted to call it chartreuse but really, it was Day-Glo green, no need for further refnining.
“He thinks the Easter Island statue is crying,” I reported to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth insisted he was not crying. She told him The Easter Island Man in Day-Glo green was in fact happy.
They went back and forth about this for a while. He held his ground. She was emphatic. He was flexible, open minded. He absorbed the news. We moved on to other topics. Soon we were at the amusement park. That is a whole other discussion.
Then, on the way home, we stopped to shop for a bathing suit. When visiting these coastal towns built for summer fun it is important to keep on the beach, in the ocean or the pool, and limit all exposure to anything else. There were no good bathing suits. The emporium of junk – massive, two stories, floodlit from outside – was depressing. It’s main contribution was for Alexander to reaffirm his distrust and dislike of manakins. They creep him out.
I lifted the sunglasses of one. It was a male manequin. I wanted to show him they were just like big dolls. At the last moment it realized that I was not sure which scenario would be more upsetting –if there were no eyes, or if there were eyes?
He had eyes. Bright brown irises surrounded by white. Long lashes. Alexander burrowed his face into my shoulder.
By the time we got home there was a gorgeous blue dusk. Powder blue. We paused to look around from the outdoor balcony, then entered our little apartment, the precise name for which the boy had repeated about twenty times when he first heard it, perhaps signifying its essentially infantile nature: “Condo.”
A lovely weekend came to an end.
We woke at dawn to pack. When we emerged into the outdoor hallway we were greeted with same blue color, slightly grayer but still blueish and strange in a wonderful way, that we had seen the previous evening. It was surely the effect of all that water stretched out on one side of us, and the little canal that ran behind us, that made it such strange light.
We drove out of Gulf Shores, everyone talking, and then the boy’s voice called out, “Happy!”
At first I laughed, full of joy that the boy had interjected his happy mood into the slightly grim moment of undertaking the three hour drive home.
But then I saw that we were driving by the Easter Island Man in Day-Glo green.
“Happy!” he said again.
This anecdote lingered, and before it faded I took out my computer and jotted it down.
And now that I am polishing – is that a euphemism for embellishing? It’s not! – the anecdote, burnishing it, working it up, something else occurs to me: We had this conversation before.
Me and Alexander had seen Easter Island statues before. Where? In some magazine or book. And when he saw them that first time he had said the same thing: “Crying!”
Are the Easter Island statues sad? I suppose they are. If a one year almost two year old says so, there must be something to it.
But more to the point, I wonder if, when he saw that Day-Glo green statue and declared it to be crying, he was making an observation based purely on what he was seeing, or had he recalled his previous reaction? Was he following the same path of thought, or was he retracing an earlier path to the same place?
Can you see the same Easter Island Statue twice, or do you just keep seeing versions of that first impression over and over again?