When I was four years old and living with my parents in Helsinki I was madly in love with my two toys—a stuffed monkey and a wooden top. They were my only toys. It was an austere world. Finland was still deep in recovery from WWII. There were no supermarkets. My mother and I stood in long lines at every small shop. Milk shop. Bakery. How my mother found that monkey I’ll never know.
I’d spin my top and it whistled and my monkey would stand very straight like Lincoln and he’d give a little speech. Wind pushed branches against the windows. I remember that the monkey favored banana ice cream. He knew the bright red banners of the street corner ice cream stands. And I recall there were many banners. Sky banners. I had blunted sight. These were green flags. For me the sky was always light green. There were trolley car green banners, a darker shade, inviting. Trolleys meant, climb into the greenery. Banners. They could woo me and win me.
That’s what I know. It takes a lifetime of skies and clouds to become today’s Stephen. Baltic clouds, pressed flowers in the mind.
I am not sentimental. For instance I’ll not tell you the monkey is still talking while the top spins. And I won’t say adult hands are an easy score to erase. I won’t tell you there was innocence.
Blind kid, strange city, the dissolving embraces of light when he looked closely. Yes, that’s still the ticket.