March 20, 2010

Jonquil Days

Around here, people refer to daffodils as jonquils, a term I had never heard until I moved here. Jonquils are coming up everywhere here; on the island there are whole yards and fields studded with the long green leaves and nodding yellow buds. The weather has been absurdly beautiful, and it is supposed to last. I've been spending several hours a day on my bicycle, visiting parts of the island I haven't ventured into since the fall. I think of the island as divided into two halves: Grimstead P.O. and Gwynn P.O. These post offices are ridiculously close to one another (probably about a mile) but somehow manage to stay open. Post offices are second only to churches in commonality in Mathews County. I like to think that there is some kind of Grimstead vs. Gwynn thing at work. The Grimstead P.O. shares its side of the island with the Seabreeze (the only island eatery), the ruined Islander motel, Island Sea Food, the Narrows Marina, the ruined Callis wharf, Roz's Island Market, and the only bridge to the mainland. For this reason I think of Grimstead as the 'town" side. The Gwynn side is less thickly populated and claims only the RV resort, the Baptist church, and the Gwynn's Island Museum (a wonder in of itself) as its commercial attraction. I think there may be a come-here/from-here dynamic at work as well.

Anyway, today I made a little jaunt past Grimstead P.O. into long unvisited territory, which was pleasant, despite being chased by several dogs. People are a lot less prone to wave on that side of the island, but that may just be evidence of my infrequent visits to it. The great event of the bike ride was my encounter with two awkward boys near the cemetery (about halfway between Gwynn and Grimstead). They were holding sticks (why do all the boys around here arm themselves?) and as I rode by on my way they one at a time chimed "Hi Bike Lady" and waved. Bike Lady? And on my way back past the cemetery, they were still there. This time they said in unison, "Bye Bike Lady." I smiled and waved, all the while wondering if perchance this is my island moniker. It may seem crazy, but I was sort of excited by this. I am Carolyn, resident of Gwynn's Island, known more commonly as.... Bike Lady.

All in all it has been an excellent week, and a first rate return from California. I am in love with this place. The smell off of the water and the sounds of the boats and the sight of a raised hand above the steering wheel: these things are things that I love. The effect that this island had on my childhood is only reenforced by my time here. I hope that every person should have the opportunity to live in a place that they irrationally, desperately adore--a place without which they would not be the person that they are. This evening I'm off to a documentary showing on the third floor of a brick building in downtown Mathews. My grandmother knows the place; in her youth it was a roller rink, and she says she remembers the wood floors that still run the length of this great long room. The room is still ringed with the hand holds of the roller rink, and as I sit there in the dark I think of my grandmother grabbing hold, young as I am now, laughing on wobbly legs.


  1. Smyrna, GA, southern Cobb County suburbs of Atlanta, childhood home of Julia Roberts, is know as the Jonquil City. "I wandered, lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o'er dale and hill, when all at once I spied a crowd, a host of golden jonquils"?