My memory has been active lately – a rickety old film projector that keeps throwing little snippets of moving imagery on the wall of my mind in washed sepia. There are so many memories; they’re coming so fast that I’m tired from them. Weary (and, yes, wary) of these moments from my life, all of the colors and tastes. I’ll be at the grocery store, driving down the road with my kids in the backseat, cleaning the bathroom, cooking, walking the dog – matters not – and suddenly there’s a hyper-real, emotionally saturated memory that explodes in my visual cortex. (I am not googling “visual cortex”: let’s just go with it as a real term – ok?)
Often, I land somewhere in Seattle. It’s the place that grabs my full attention – the corner of a restaurant, a particular aisle in a bookstore. It is not usually an event populated with people, but a place, such as the dahlia garden at the old art museum on Capitol Hill, which then leads to another memory – this one an actual event – of having a picnic on the eve of a friend’s wedding back in the Midwest, a wedding that I could not attend. Instead, I”m in the the park, near the dahlias, sitting on a red and white tablecloth with my boyfriend and watching the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence play croquet under a darkening blueberry-hued sky, their black and white habits whipping about as the wind picks up. There’s going to be a storm. (But it never storms in Seattle, so did it really happen this way?) Which takes me to that friend and our apartment on Lucas Street, the odd smell of gyros cooking in the apartment below us, the NASA rations we found in the cupboards, the mug after mug of Constant Comment tea we drank while clicking out papers on our side-by-side typewriters.
Maddening that so few of these memories are of my children. What was Tobey like at two? I can’t remember. What did Bella sound like at five? Beats me. It pains me that I don’t know. Why would I remember these useless details when it would be so joyful to be with them at these earlier times? And my father … why is he so just out of reach, around the bend, out of earshot. Maddening.
Maybe this is a process that has only just begun. A categorizing and collecting of all that was.
Perhaps it’s age and my memories are unspindling. Maybe this is a process that has only just begun. A categorizing and collecting of all that was. A mind and heart’s realization at the inevitable continuation of everything – like the two-toned oxfords I spied on a young woman at the farmer’s market and which took me back – POP! – to a similar pair I bought on The Ave in Seattle, circa 1989. And then to a random conversation I had about those same shoes in an elevator at Microsoft.
Perhaps, though, it’s because of the fall, and it’s my memory’s way of dealing with the inevitable deaths occurring all around. The zinnias paler each day. The tomatoes nearly spent. Even the grass beginning to give up a bit. I look at Hannah, my 14 1/2 year old dog, as she tottles and dottles more each day. She seems confused – barks at nothing at 3:30 in the morning. Is she, too, affronted by an onslaught of memories?
I think I’ll draw a bath and pour some tea and remember.