The Art of Blowing Bubbles

Funerals in the movies tend to have rain in them as a metaphor of grief and sorrow.  At Nanna’s funeral, the day was just, well, a nice spring day.  My brother and sister stood beside me in the front row; our mother and her sister sharing tissues and sorrow.

I’ve come to think of memory as a photo album.  You know those little rectangular ones where you can flip through a hundred or so photos.  In my version I see my Nanna, the high coiffed hair held together by a film of hairspray.  I’m surprised her cigarettes didn’t set her hair alight with all that product.

You hold onto the little things about someone, whether it’s an event, a situation or a scent.  For me, it was something she said.

“You can never blow bubbles when you are angry,” my grandmother intoned. The word changed depending on the situation: sad or scared or upset, but the intent was always the same.

At the know-it-all age of five and full of boyish exuberance, I was trying to blow bubbles through a home made loop of wire dipped into bright pink dish washing-up detergent.

“This stuff is far better than any of that store-bought rubbish,” was her standard refrain.  And I must admit that even to this day I still swear by the bright pink sticky liquid.  It made awesome bubbles.

Try as I might, I could not get the bubbles to form a consistent stream like my grandmother made.  The more I tried, the less successful I was and the frustrations of a young child verged on tearful.  Nanna calmly took the loop of wire from my hand and dipped it.  She raised it to her lips and I watched the quiet exhalation of breath.  The bubbles streamed away, caught by the breeze.

“Slowly and carefully,” she instructed.

I dipped the loop and drew it towards my mouth.  The frustration was simmering but I paused while I took a deep breath.  With controlled focus I released the captured air and it raced towards the skin of detergent.  It bulged and suddenly burst.

“Try again,” was her reassurance.  It was hard to be calm when all you wanted to do was hurl the wretched thing across the yard.  The second attempt proved as futile.

“Slowly and consistently,” she repeated.

On the third try a small stream of bubbles stuttered then stopped.

“There you are.  That’s it.”

Reassured I tried again and watched the swirl of bubbles get pushed along by the wind.  We laughed trying to fill the air with as many bubbles as we could.  Little spheres popped noiselessly.

It became her sage advice for every occasion, should something go wrong.  She kept a bottle of solution and a wand on the kitchen windowsill.  Sometimes it was better than any headache tablet or cough medicine.

Nanna’s coffin slid through the curtain to the crematorium.   My father led my mother by the arm outside the chapel.  The mourners congregated in sombre two’s and three’s.  I stood aside in the shade of the alcove.  From my jacket pocket I removed a small plastic bottle of bright pink washing up liquid and a loop of wire.  A libation in honour of the dead.

Grief disrupted the rhythm of my breathing. A short, sharp inhalation held to stem the tears.  I drew the wand to my lips then methodically, deliberately exhaled. A steady stream of bubbles rushed forward settling in the hands of the breeze.  I watched them rise and dance, fade and disappear.


33 responses to “The Art of Blowing Bubbles

  1. This was such a tender tribute to memory. The description of Nanna with sprayed coif and sage advice was very well done.

    I want to try that pink dishwashing liquid! Blowing bubbles do make one happy. 🙂

    • As a kid, my Mum bought this pink washing up liquid called Bushland’s detergent. It made awesome bubbles. Unfortunately, it isn’t made anymore to the best of my knowledge.

  2. I think Nanna would be proud. This is a beautiful piece. You’re really settling into a wonderful rhythm with your writing.

  3. Ah, the home-made bubble solution.

    Great memory piece.

  4. Adam, I love this. Within the joy of the memories I even forgot it was about the funeral, so when it came back to it I was there with him, making the bubbles fly.

  5. Deanna Schrayer

    Adam, this is so beautiful, not only in its simplicity, but in its complexity as well. Yes, we must be relaxed in order to blow the perfect bubble, but we must also be relaxed in order to…well, live relaxed. Nanna taught him not only how to blow bubbles, but to live happy. Just gorgeous.

  6. I really enjoyed that! Overcome by such a sweet memory, and paying tribute in kind. That’s delightful.

    minor note: “nice” appears twice in the first two sentences

    • It’s such a nice word that it was worth using twice. 🙂 Nicely picked up. I will go and change it. Thanks for the spot.

  7. Sweet. Very sweet. Thanks Adam for leaving a lovely thought at the end.-Tiffany

  8. Such a beautiful celebration of life. I’m going to make blowing bubbles my next artist date and think about your Nanna. Beautifully done.

  9. Great peace. Very eloquent.

  10. Oh, this was absolutely beautiful and charming and heartwarming. It felt so personal and nostalgic. I feel I miss her and I never knew her. Well done.

    • Glad the piece has had that effect, as the character of Nanna is mostly fictional. It is an amalgam of aspects of both my grandmothers and a little bit of my own childhood.

  11. I’m not usually a person who cries or gets teary-eyed from things, but this is a tear-tugger of a story. I love the character of Nanny and her advice about the bubbles. This was just so beautifully written. What a moving tribute.

  12. Sage advice from Nanna (but then, it usually is, isn’t it?)
    I’m remembering my Gran now!

  13. Lovely story, it caused me to think on the countless happy times I shared with my own dear grandmother.

  14. Lovely story. Nanna was a wise woman indeed.

  15. i really loved the last 5 lines of this. Beautiful, lyrical writing, starting with the ‘libation’ and then his grief preventing him blowing until he’s able to gather himself. Wonderful

  16. Very moving story. It read through like a heartfelt memoir. Well done.

  17. I truly love this story. This is how people should be remembered, with joy for the gifts they gave, however small they seem.

    Excellent writing. Well done!

  18. I love bittersweet memories – the ones that make your eyes sting with tears, while your heart fills with love. You captured it wonderfully.

  19. What a beautiful and touching tribute to Nanna. Well done Adam!

  20. Oh that was gorgeous Adam.
    Pulled me in and down and under.

  21. Pulled me right in from the first sentence and cast my mind back to my own Grandmother, always beautifully coiffeured and full of similar sage advice. I’m writing this with a tear of fond remembrnace in my eye.

  22. My nanna made homemade bubble blowing liquid, too. And sometime we would do dishes together and blow handfuls of bubbles at each other. A very nice journey down memory lane, Adam. So many wonderful lines in this, but my favorite is: “A steady stream of bubbles rushed forward settling in the hands of the breeze.” That’s just awesome!

  23. Slowly and consistently. Great advice for life. Beautiful story.

  24. Excellent story. A touching tribute.

  25. Love this: “You can never blow bubbles when you are angry,” my grandmother intoned.

    It’s so true too.

    Beautiful story.

  26. Lovely, just lovely. You do a great job of telling a story and recreating a memory in the mind of the narrator that could so easily get sappy, but you don’t. Handled with grace. peace…

  27. A beautiful piece of writing – lovely imagery Adam, I really enjoyed this piece.

  28. This is lovely. I remember teaching my nephews to blow bubbles. I wasn’t so philosophical, but it was great family time.

  29. This was absolutely beautiful. Impeccably written.

  30. Pingback: #FridayFlash Favorites (for November 5) | Be the Story

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