Posts Tagged With: Memory

The Stories I Tell Myself

“Two old friends met by chance on the street. After chatting for some time, one said to the other, “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name. You’ll need to tell me.” The other stared at him thoughtfully for a long time, then replied, “How soon do you need to know?”

It’s Gratituesday! Today’s gratitude is brought to you courtesy of the word “Memories.”

Memory morphs. It changes. It softens and fades. Certain aspects take on larger dimensions while other seemingly significant details diminish.

I love how I can close my eyes and be in a moment that occurred weeks or months or years ago. I also love how I don’t even have to close my eyes for a memory to play itself out in my head, tiny detail by tiny detail.

Sometimes I don’t love it so much. Not all memories carry pleasant and soothing gift wrapped packages. Nope, some carry regret, sorrow, heartache, stupidity, shame. The potential hazards of a ride down memory lane can trip a person up and send them reeling.

Who I Am

Either way, happy or sad, delightful or melancholy, ridiculous or sublime, memory feels like part of who I am. Memory makes up the marrow in my bones. It keeps my heart beating. It gives meaning to every single thing I do, every choice I make.

I can’t imagine losing memories, like a person with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Huntington’s, or any number of other disorders or diseases.  I’d be no one anymore. I’d not be me at least, without my memories. So much of my joy in life comes from my ability at will to conjure visions of holding my babies, or remembered dances in the moonlight, or crazy things I’ve done like belting out an early morning wakeup song in the middle of nowhere.

"While we live, let us live."

“While we live, let us live.”

As life can often weigh me down with gradually sneaking age and circumstance, having a memory to recall an adventurous few years of climbing cliffs as the world falls away below me reminds me I am not just this aching back, this tired woman, this struggling human. Recalling my years as a young mother when I feel all a bit lost among those with vibrant families remind me I’m more than I appear to others. Chance encounters with my past in fleeting thoughts often brighten a day heavy with worry. Memories remind me that I consist of all that I’ve done and experienced. I’m so much more than what I see in the mirror.

The ratio of good to bad memories isn’t balanced. I’m not sure where the ratio falls. My answer depends on what day you ask me. Today the scale tips heaviest on the abrasive side of things, the hard roads, the thorns, the losses, the mistakes. But give me a few days with a few night’s full sleep and I may say just the opposite. I try not to whitewash things, but I also don’t want to muck about in negativity and regret. Maybe that’s where fiction first found its birth. Hmmm.

Maybe That’s Why

I suppose that’s part of what drives me to write. I write my memories, both good stuff and bad, along with my changing view of those memories, as a way to re-acquaint myself with me. It would be a shame to let all those years of work and learning and experience just slip away as I inevitably fade away.

Hopefully, writing the memories down in various forms will let me live a little longer, but not just as a legacy or in a personal history.

As I write my memories, I relive them and in that living, love again and laugh again.

 

~~~~~

The title for today’s post grew out of this quote: “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” ~Julian Barnes

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Childhood Revisited: Swinging In From a Star

Today’s post  is a response to this WordPress Daily Post writing prompt.: “What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.”

 

Pressing my face into the mesh of memory, I’ve searched and searched for details from my earliest childhood.  My attempts to peel back the layers, clarify the view and remove the dust and cobwebs find little substance. 

The few memories that surface are vague at best.  I couldn’t tell you how old I was, only where I was, but not when.  It’s as if I’m waiting for movie clips about myself from the outside like an independent observer.  But in reality the only point of view is from the inside looking out.  There aren’t any movie trailers.

Well, there are those 8mm films my parents took.  But that’s a memory of a memory.

There is this one clear, unchanging mental image, my first memory, my first awareness of being. My first experience with me-ness. 

I am walking between my dad and my mom, going up the street towards our little white clapboard house.  Each of them has taken hold of one of my hands. Whether I could walk on my own, I have no idea.  Maybe I was young enough that they were encouraging walking, or I could have been older and needing to be kept in check by the two of them. The world is vague and blotchy, all color and wash. The features of most things have no distinct form or shape. Our house is the only clear landmark.

The sensation of a hand in each of theirs is vivid; warmth and energy pulse into me.  And then, suddenly, I am soaring up and out, secured between them like a swing.  Then I am walking on the ground again.  I hear, “One, two, three!” and I sail out into the air again, safely tethered to them both.

Multiple times they count and launch me heavenward.  Each “three” creates the sensation of my body feeling free and ephemeral, accompanied by gravity’s pull back between them. Whether I spoke the words or merely thought them, my mind says, “again,” after each swing out and back. 

night sky

night sky (Photo credit: dcysurfer / Dave Young)

I remember laughter, mine or theirs.  Both, I’m sure.

I could easily believe a tale of my birth as a launching from heaven, lofted into the cosmos, riding a wave of star dust and gently landing between my father and mother. Caught between the two of them, I scatter dust from my journey as I swing back and forth, back and forth.  It’s a fairy tale worth holding on to. 

My earliest memory of childhood makes it feel as if I came swinging into this world suspended between them, held fast by love and joy.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Love, Memory Lane, parenting, Wondering | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Why My Cupboards Are Haunted

Not long ago I trekked to my favorite grocery store, this time without a curler in my hair. (That’s another story.) I had put it off for a while, because I don’t really like the task.  I do like to eat, however, and my family seems determined to have food on a regular basis, so it’s unavoidable.

I went the first thing in the morning, so I could avoid crowds, get the groceries put away and get to work on time.

Because I had put off going shopping, my list was long.  You know those odd items you run out of, the condiments, spices, a certain kind of bottled pepper for that one recipe?  This list was full of stuff like that.  Up one aisle and down the next I went, slowly filling the cart with my procrastinated needs.  I stuck to the list too, none of those impulse purchases.  Pencil in hand, I crossed off all those items.  Focused and determined to get done and get back home, I didn’t dawdle.

Finally I crossed off the last item.  I chose the self-checkout line. I’d gotten hooked on these a few years back.  I know, it’s slower if you have more than ten items, but I like the sense of independence, of being able to fill the grocery bags the way I want.  I like that I have some of the produce codes memorized. Pretty sure I secretly dreamed of  cashiering when I was a kid.

I scanned all my items, efficiently and quickly.  I was a shopper in the zone.  No coupons. I put in my frequent buyer number to get the store discounts.  Swiped my payment card.

Credit Card

Rejected.

What?

Hmmm.  I reswiped the card.  Entered my pin number.  Not approved.

I looked at the card to make sure I’m using the correct pin number with the correct card.  Yes.  I swiped the card again, selecting the credit option.  Still rejected.

I reached for my other debit card, the one from the bank, not the credit union.  Not there.  Must have given it to one of the kids to put gas in the car.  I have a twenty.  The machine asks for a cartload of money.  Dang.

Now what?

MSH was asleep after working late, so a call to his turned off cell phone wouldn’t have helped. By the time I could drive home and drive back I’d have eaten into my small window of time before work. I wouldn’t  have time to put things away. I’d be late for everything the rest of the day.

The clerk who oversees the self-checkout menagerie came over to help.  I explained my dilemma, apologized, stood there feeling stupid.  She says, no worries, they have people who can put it all back.

Defeated.

I walk out of the store empty-handed.  Not a single bag of groceries. What an odd feeling.

Resisting the temptation to give into tears in the car, I tried to think through the day ahead, put the embarrassment and frustration behind me.

I never made it back to the grocery store that week.  Sent hubby on a milk run.  Had my son pick up a couple of items once or twice.

It’d be nice to carry enough “just in case” cash, but that kind of money doesn’t float around my house too much.  And I’d be tempted to spend it somewhere else, here and there.  Does anyone even take checks anymore?  I just want efficient and easy. And reliable.

Turns out a bank error occurred while processing a direct deposit.  Who’d have known?  I guess I would have if I checked my account online before heading out to spend money.  Lesson learned, sort of.

Technology is great, except when it isn’t.

Here’s the weirdest outcome.  All those crossed off items from my failed grocery acquisition got crossed off in my head too.  I’d go to the pantry to pull out the spice I had put in my cart and it wouldn’t be there.  Oh yeah, I’d remember, not paid for.  I’d reach into the fridge for cilantro I’d just almost bought, and nothing.  That balsamic vinegar I had planned to use later in the week?  Missing, no wait, never purchased.  Salt to refill the shaker?  Nada.  Oh yeah, debit card downer.

For weeks afterwards my cupboards and pantry and fridge felt haunted.

Even to this day, months afterwards, I still find myself reaching for an item my head tells me I bought.  It went in the cart, it went through the scanner, it went into the grocery bag, and it went into my brain.  It just never went into my cupboards.

Wish I could tap into that “rememberability” with things that are really important.

Categories: Food, Humor | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Bird on the Wing and Sheets to the Wind

English: Flying Herring Gull (Larus argentatus...

We had a tree in the back yard that I used to climb.  Don’t get too excited, it wasn’t very big by adult standards.  I don’t even remember what kind it was or what color the leaves changed to in the fall.  A sturdy, low, side angled branch, its most distinguishing feature, made it easy to climb.  On more than a few occasions I climbed that tree with a sheet, or blanket or cape of some kind, determined to use its height as my launch pad, my runway, my base for a flying leap.

My childish imagination and child-like faith saw me soaring on the sails I held tightly waded in my fist.  If the wind were blowing hard enough, I reasoned, I’d be able to stay aloft at least sixty seconds.  I’ll admit there were doubts floating about my head, which I tried to extinguish, but hope won out over fear as I made my way to the outer limbs.

I would look out at the back yard, cautiously eye the power line looping low from a pole to the house.  Then, I would envision myself lifting into the air.  Closing my eyes I’d leap out into a gust of wind.  I was always surprised that there wasn’t even the least little sensation of lift, hesitation or sense of flight.  The ground came up to meet me quickly and decisively.

My feet usually had that burning sensation from landing so hard, a sort of instant but fleeting numbness kept me on the grass.  Analyzing the situation I almost always concluded that I just didn’t believe enough.  Gravity, lift, or physics never entered my equation.  I was sure that my doubts pulled me down and kept me grounded.

If the wind stayed gusty I would often try several more times.  Climbing with my sheet or towel, thinking birdlike thoughts, willing it to be possible, I repeatedly leapt out into the invisible air certain THIS time would be it.

Hope versus reason.  Naysayers abound.  Negativity runs rampant.  One seldom hears of miracles.  And yet…

And yet, we all still climb.  We climb out of bed and face a difficult day.  We climb into our cars and work at a soul-numbing job to support a family. We climb over the obstacles that life throws at us and we keep moving.  We climb a mountain of despair after a loss and hope for less pain and brighter days. We climb through the paperwork and jump through the hoops to get the support and help a loved one needs.  We climb and we climb and we climb.

And every day we make that leap of faith and hope.

I am still a flightless child.  But inside, part of me still thinks the seemingly impossible could be possible if I just keep trying.

Categories: Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s Something in the Air

Cow female black white

On opening the microwave door today I caught whiff yesterday mornings bacon smell and was mentally propelled into my paternal grandparents home.  It was quite nearly like being teleported. Certain brands of coffee brewing will take me there, as will Grandpa’s brand of cigarettes, a smell I find oddly endearing, precisely because it is so closely associated with memories of my Grandfather.  Grandma wouldn’t let him smoke inside the house, so he went out to the garage, or the garden when he needed to light up.  If we couldn’t find Grandpa in the house, we knew we could find him outdoors simply by following our noses.  And the bacon?  When our family visited they cooked up a storm for us.  Mounded heaps of pancakes, sausage and bacon sat center stage at their table.  Grandpa was the cook.  Grandma sat at the table sipping her morning coffee overseeing our amazingly decadent feast.  We didn’t get bacon at our house. That was a luxury item.

Smell is surely the most evocative of all the memories.

Lilacs used to grow along our backyard fence when I was very young.  That heady fragrance carries with it a sense of calm and a feeling that all is right with the world.

My favorite restaurant experience ever was less about the five-star service and phenomenal food and more due to the fact that they used wood fired stoves.  I have many, many cherished memories of cooking over a camp fire, so the wood smoke atmosphere lent an ambiance to the meal that could be had not other way.

Old Spice cologne brings out memories of my dad.  Falling asleep in church with my head leaning against his shoulder stands out particularly.  He also carried in his pocket a small container of mint lifesavers, broken into fourths.  That waft of mint in the air will place my thoughts squarely in a church pew, a sermon droning, sleepiness weighing my eyes down.

Fresh cut grass transports me to the park I grew up nearby.  When that scent hits the air in my head I’m rolling down hills, catching fly balls and throwing Frisbees.

Books have a certain smell, especially library books.  It’s a sort of musty, dusty, inky papery scent that sets me down on the couch next to mom hearing her reading.  The melody of her voice drifts across the years and settles in at the very center of me.  The world all-akimbo rights itself from that one singular sensation.  Who knew the power that could be found in the smell a book carries.

I worked in a print shop for a year once.  Never thought I’d get over being blown away by the strong ink smell that permeated every atom in the building.  No surprise in that connection of  ink and words.  For me, the print shop placed me one tiny step closer to my childhood dream of someday being published, having my words set down in ink.  And so the smell of printer’s ink is the call and promise of a distant dream, a hope in the air.

A dairy farm is distinctly aromatic.  For most people it isn’t a pleasant distinction.  I spent a week once, and a few days over the years, in the company of a happy family who owned dairy cows, and with them  the required hay fields,  farm machinery, and relaxed country drawl.  I adored helping out at milking time.  It was a mechanized operation that fascinated me.  My job was to pull the lever that sent a shower of grain into a feeding trough for the beautiful black and white beasts to munch on as the suction cups emptied their udders.  It was an important job!  The smell of manure, grain, milk and dust was a heady thing, full of responsibility, pride and usefulness.  Those smells to this day conjure such wonder-filled emotions.

I can tell that today will be a day of breathing deeply and searching for memories in those breaths.

Is there a scent or fragrance richly tied to memory for you?  Have you ever been surprised by a smell, having been, until that moment, unaware of the power of it’s chemistry?

 

 

 

Categories: Memory Lane | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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