You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘memory’ tag.
I’m still psychically reeling from the Marathon bombing yesterday, so it was good to be able to work from home today, and watch the snow outside. My migraine passed in the night, but the frozen okra that I used as an icepack will never be the same. I guess many things will never be quite the same after yesterday. On a lighter note, I discovered today that if you put a plastic bottle of root beer in the freezer and forget about it, and then remember it, and open it, it produces evil, sickly sweet, bubbly, tube-y things that look and taste and sound as if they come from a cafeteria in hell. Okay, maybe that wasn’t on a lighter note…
Today’s rose is in remembrance of all those lost in body and spirit yesterday.
Quote of the Day: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” — J.R.R. Tolkien (and with my thanks to Elsa.)
Big fat round robins
The bald eagle that flew over me as I was shovelling the walk
Grey light on white snow
My red sweater
The Banker’s Lamp
My emerald shade has cast a puzzling ivory glow across decades of ledgers
As gnarled hands carefully ink figures that signify a man’s fate
Across slender columns on a lined page.
I have watched fortunes won and lost on the turn of a track,
The roll of dice,
A gamble of land,
All from a distance, of course.
I only see the outcome
Never the game.
I have watched sums carefully
Saved for that day when
It is time to spend
Rather than to earn
And seen death take the reins in hand,
Proving caution futile.
I have watched as all wealth fled
In a trickle and in a rush
Wasted upon killing habits
Or squandered upon reckless whims.
I have seen it all,
Decades and decades of it all
And I remain unchanged
If slightly dusty
Waiting each day for those hands
To pull a brass chain
So I may aid a pair of watery blue eyes
Behind wire spectacles
Until those hands again
Pull the chain.
Note: This is Day 1 because I got started late, and so, I’m catching up.
Stanzas of Remembered Flowers
I tried so hard to grow,
Neglected by long hours of too much work and finally
Dug up to death by my ex-husband
after the end of everything.
But it’s scent – bottled -
shines on my pillow on sleepless nights
and reminds me of my mother.
my grandfather’s favorite scent, my mother (yes, her again) told me.
I have a small cask of violet scent
that I cannot bear to open
because if I use it
it will be gone
and then I will not know what my
grandfather’s favorite scent was.
It has been on my shelf for so long
it likely smells now only of dust.
along the brick front steps
of the house where I grew up,
the blossoms a rare treat,
exotic and sensual in their scent.
I would spend time
picking off the little bugs that would harm the plant,
trying to keep it alive
even as the blooms turned golden brown,
their fragrance dragged down into the mud by age and air.
as a first hope
when winter seems unbearable,
tightly budded turned to trumpeting blooms
with a scent so scant one must know how to smell for it
but so fresh and full of spring as a ball of sunlit butter or warm kitten fur.
I sneak sniffs of their yellowness in the grocery store
and remember scampering over rocks
in fields that were full lush ripe joyous overwhelming endless
a drunken rainbow of colors
in the past and present and future,
dried and hanging from the ceilings and walls of the bungalow,
single corsages of forgotten origin tucked away in boxes,
saved so I would always remember.
The dozen yellow roses that my parents sent me
when my daughter was born.
Always my mother’s favorite.
consuming my small house
that I no longer live in,
their bushes roof-high,
their branches old and gnarled,
but every few years
the weight of their harvest
encompasses all the old white boards
and fading red trim
an ordinary little old domicile
into a bower of magic.
So many more
captured in the mind’s eye,
in the recollected scent of complicated night breezes
and happenstance passages,
so many more to name
but every poem must
have an end
Or at least a pause
to cleanse the palate
and clear the senses.
My Mother’s birthday was last week. I forgot it this year. I think this is first year since she died that I’ve forgotten it. Of course, I always seemed to forget it when she was alive, and she was (so she said) okay with that. She wasn’t the sort to make much of a fuss about that kind of thing. So she probably wasn’t surprised that I forgot it this year. In fact, I expect she’s kind of pleased. I know she thinks my grieving has gone on waaaay too long. And really, I’m not grieving anymore. It’s just that the loss and the absence of both her and my Father is still tender. A deep bruise on my soul that I can only touch lightly lest it hurt too much. I doubt it will ever heal much more than it is now.
A few weeks ago, we cleaned out the garage, and I brought a few remaining boxes of things from my Mother inside to unpack. There they sat in the solarium, untouched save for Thunder Cat sharpening her claws on the cardboard, until my niece/roommate said, “Do you think you could do something about those boxes?” Which is her nice way of saying “Your clutter is driving me nuts, you insane surface-dwelling packrat.” A perfectly reasonable request; after all, one can’t just have a room filled with cardboard boxes just sitting there forever, can one? Well, actually one can, if one is my Dad, but that’s another story. In a shared home, it’s just not okay.
We tentatively agreed to resolve this issue on Saturday night, with a couple of bottles of wine and a box cutter. Rereading that, it sounds like we’re getting drunk and fighting to the death, but we’re not – we just agreed to tackle this chore together. What with chile festivals and flea markets and bicycle rides, we ended up arriving home at different times, me with MKL, and her an hour or so later. So I settled down to open Box #1.
The day my Mother died, after making the requisite phone calls, E-Bro and I started to pack her things up. He tackled the little office, living room, kitchen. I packed up the bedroom and bathrooms. So many things, and I was not in a place to make decisions then. I was raw and suicidal and heartbroken.
When I opened this first box, all those feelings came flooding back at me like I had jumped into hyperspace. I had packed in a way that showed how I couldn’t bear to discard anything that was my Mother’s. The box had two little packets of tissue, and three boxes of Irish Spring. It had photo albums of my pictures that I had given to my Dad as Christmas gifts in the years before he died. It had the fleece blanket she had kept over her in her deathbed.
It still carried her scent. Almost six years later.
I started to cry.
MKL came over and put his arm around me, asked if there was anything he could do. He was just there – which is exactly what I needed. He took the blanket and wrapped it up in a separate bag, so it might retain some of its scent, and shared with me a similar experience from his grandfather’s passing.
Then I cleaned myself up and we made shrimp.
I can only manage one box at a time, I told Niece when she got home. She was cool with that, as long as I was making the effort.
Last night, after I got home, I tided up a bit and opened box Number Two. Again, it showed a certain amount of randomness and attachment to the moment. There were her art books and portfolio from the mail-order painting class she had taken when I was very small, perhaps about three. I can still remember her, sitting at her easel in the sunny study. A little white T-shirt that she used to wear. Two nightgowns. A caftan - I have pictures of her wearing that at our last trip to Topsail, three months before she died. It was her favorite. I put the T-shirt and nightgowns in the wash. I put the caftan on the foot of my bed.
There were some more fleece blankets – ones that DIDN’T smell like her. And a comforter that I made for my Father.
And then a satchel, a newer version of the kind my Father carried to work every day, filled with yarn. I put my hand in to see what it was.
It was a soft green afghan that she was knitting, the needles still in place in the yarn, at the point when she stopped, a few days before she died. She was knitting it for me. It was a pattern I had always wanted her to make for me, ever since I was a very little girl – moss green, with beautiful pink roses on it.
It will never be finished now.
I took a deep breath. And put my head on my arms on the kitchen table and sobbed my heart out.
I still have more boxes to unpack.
I choose to remember the days of light.
I choose to remember the sun shining off silver.
I could remember the confusion, horror, fascination, and fear. I could remember the devastation that an empath feels on such a day. And of course, I do remember those things. I remember them viscerally. They are likely contributing to my bout of depression.
But today, I will choose to remember a day, years and years ago, when I emerged from a subway station I had never been in before – one of my rare forays into the New York City subway system – and looked up. It was a bright and beautiful day, full of sun. And I looked up. And up. And up. Yes, I knew I looked just like a tourist, craning my neck, bending half backwards, trying to see the top of those silver pillars playing with the brightness of the day. But I didn’t care. I was amazed and wonderous. And oh-so-touched with joy that I was finally standing at the feet of this sterling place that I had only before seen from the air or a distance. I just stood there, letting people bump around me, with a goofy smile on my face. A goofy smile that carried to my eyes and exuded childlike joy and light itself and that made all the rushing bumpy New Yorkers who had to interrupt their steps soften just a touch and not mind quite so much having to rearrange their hurried pace.
I remember going across the street to the old church, St. Paul’s Chapel. It was closed, but I wandered around the graveyard, as graveyards are favorite places of mine, examining the headstones, and soaking in the peace of the place. I was amused by the incongruity of something so historic in the shadow of something so modern – these crumbling, weather-worn stones side-by-side with the sleek, silver, glassy skyscrapers. I remember how hot the afternoon was, and how I sought shade and shelter in the cemetery. I was not taking many pictures in those days, so the pictures are only captured in my mind’s eye. I wish that were otherwise.
Today, the interior of my body aches and weeps and quietly wails in memory of losses. It is how my spirit works. But I am going to choose to remember the sunshine of that day, and other days, and days to come.
Kelsea and I are off to North Carolina tonight, leaving the kitty and house in capable hands. E-Bro and the fam are coming on Sunday. MKL will join us on Tuesday. For the first time since Kelsea was born, we are staying in a different cottage – one called Two Suns.
It’s only about 10 houses north of “our” house, but it’s amazing how different that makes both the view and the energy.
When I first started going to Topsail, we stayed in a little tiny house called “The Willard”. I remember the night we first arrived. It was unmarked, we had no idea if we were in the right place, and a hurricane was passing by. It’s not called by that name anymore, but it’s still there and still tiny, though it has been fixed up some. I suggested to Kelsea that we stay there this year, but we decided we wanted to be south of the Jolly Roger Pier.
Once when I was younger than Kelsea, and once again when I was about her age, we couldn’t get “our” house, and so we stayed elsewhere. It was interesting and different, but we still liked “our” house best. I am thinking that will be the case this time, especially since we don’t have a front porch on Two Suns, and Kelsea loves to hang out on the front porch in the afternoons, reading and watching the world go by where the sun is not so ripe and flaming. She’ll have to make do with the side porch at this house. I guess she can play sentry at the top of the stairs.
A change of scenery is never a bad thing, and my photos will have a different perspective, which I hope we will all enjoy.
Having MKL join us is a change as well, since no one else has stayed with us since my parents died, and ex-Pat didn’t even come with us most years. MKL will be meeting the rest of my family for the first time. In my old-fashioned Southern way, I am hoping for my brother’s blessing as head of the family. It’s been two years since I’ve seen E-Bro and the fam, so I think we’re all prepared for changes all around, especially in the kids.
I’m considering whether we want to make time for a side trip this year. Last year’s trip to Bald Head Island didn’t work out as quite the fantasy I’d hoped for, but it certainly was interesting. As MKL has never been to North Carolina, I’d love to be able to share a little more of my home state with him.
Possibilities for a day trip are Moore’s Creek, a Revolutionary War battlefield not too far from Hampstead, or perhaps the Arlie Gardens, where Kelsea and I had… technical difficulties on our last visit, way back when she was three, or maybe even Swansboro. After all, it’s been two years since I’ve made any grievous errors getting lost on the military base. I’m pretty sure they miss me.
But you won’t have to miss me, as Two Suns has wireless, and I promise to keep you posted. (Get it? Posted? HA!)
I can get homesick for a memory, not a place.
Does that sound strange?
Homesickness is fairly rare for me anymore. It happens mostly in spring, when I know that North Carolina is turning green and blossoming while Colorado is still buried under a winter shroud.
But sometimes, it is triggered by a visual, like it was this morning. The bus stopped at one of its usual stops on Hwy. 287, and across the street, a Mo-Po-Po (translation: a police officer on a really cool Harley) was giving some poor guy a ticket, which was not a good way to start his day. At the edge of the small hill on that side of the street is a small pond (more of a giant puddle) and at the edge of the puddle are cattails.
My Mother loved cattails, so I loved cattails. Their brown velvet casings are so soft, and the down that emerges from them is like a blessing, an indicator that it is time for this lovely thing to move on to its next phase of life (or death).
I remember at Topsail, towards the North end of the island at the curve just before the big bridge, stopping at the side of the road for my Mother to burrow into the marsh and cut cattails to take home. They would live for a long time, dried in an old bronze-toned vase with dragons etched and curling up its sides.
I think I have that vase somewhere.
And at Buxton, where a walk on the Maritime Forest Nature Trail in the chill of a beachside March dusk would yield cold fingers and runny noses, she would see cattails, but never disturb them, as the Nature Trail was a protected area. (Though she would snitch a few leaves from the Bay Laurel tree to ensure she had enough to carry her through the year.)
The sight of cattails this morning made me homesick.
We are going home very soon, to a different beach house for this one year, which will be good but strange, and we will start some new traditions, and welcome MKL into some old ones. And I will drive by the curve in the road where the cattails live, and remember.
Because of our senses, so many parts of the past are not lost to us.
Sight? We have images from as far back as 1826.
Sound? The first audio recording ever is from the 1860s. For Christmas last year, when I bought Kelsea her record player, I also bought an album of historical figures speaking, just so we could have a voice to attach to a name and a picture. We are cut off from this part of the past prior to the recorded word. Such is not the case with visuals, as we have paintings prior to photographs that give us images from centuries ago.
Taste? Well, for centuries some people have had good taste and some people have had questionable taste, but we’re not talking about that kind of taste. We’re talking about, say, turnips. A turnip today – at least one grown organically – likely tastes pretty much like a turnip six hundred years ago tasted. Ergo, status quo. We retain a history of taste due to the unchanging nature of basic foodstuffs.
Touch? Ditto taste. A cat’s fur feels the same as it did one thousand years ago. I think. Not everything is the same to the touch but there is a living history, A rock still feels like a rock.
And so we come to smell. And here is where history fails us. The sense of smell is lost with time – it is the most fleeting and least replicable of the senses. You know the fragrance of a rose, yet one fragrant rose is unlike another. And many roses are having the fragrance bred out of them, either because of people’s allergies and oversensitvity, or because the scent is sacrificed for a more stunning visual beauty. Will there come a day when the scent of roses is just a memory? Can it even live on in essential oils if there are no more fragrant roses?
Florals aside, while we can look at Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s picture, Netherlandish Proverbs, and you can see a lot of what life might have been like in a Dutch village in the 1500s.
You can imagine sounds, because you know what a voice sounds like, what a goat sounds like, what a cacophony of noise sounds like, but what is missing is being able to imagine the rich aroma of the place and time.This was an era when people didn’t bathe often, lived in close quarters, kept animals on small parcels of property, and had no particular system for waste disposal of any kind. Of course, they didn’t have all the trash that we do now, but organic waste is just as smelly as any other kind of waste. And there was possibly a lot more organic waste than we have now – I have no idea what they did with dead animals. Buried them, I hope. Or ate them, perhaps? Times could be tough.
This one sense, which in each of us today, is so variable – some can smell things that others cannot – is the element of the past from which we are most disconnected. A curious thought. Especially when scents can trigger such memories. When I open boxes that I packed up five years ago the day after my Mother died, her scent can waft out as if she’s by my shoulder. Perhaps she is.
When I was pregnant, I would have olfactory hallucinations – memories of smells from my past – primarily gardenias. It was lovely.
But then Kelsea came up to me this morning and said, “Mom, smell my shoulder.”
I guess that sense of smell can be a mixed blessing.
I was walking down the street the other day eating a banana.
I know that sounds like the beginning of some kind of bad and possibly pornographic joke, but it’s actually just what was happening. And I was uncomfortable with it. And that got me thinking about why I was uncomfortable with it.
And the answer? My Southern roots are showing again. Seems like they do that more often than not.
My sister-in-law (or more accurately, my two-year old niece) gave me a book last Christmas entitled, “Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On!: What Southern Mamas Tell Their Daughters that the Rest of Y’all Should Know Too” by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. The book is kind of a retrospective of what we Southern women heard and learned as we were growing up. While it didn’t resonate with me as much as my own memories, it was entertaining, and brought some other thoughts to mind, which I’ll jot down here.
If you’ve read much popular Southern chick-fic (otherwise known as fiction books written for women), you’ll see terms such as DGs (Daddy’s Girls), Sweet Potato Queens, Ya Yas, and GRITS (Girls Raised In The South). Those terms didn’t exist back in my day.
If I was anything, I was a Southern Belle, although that label carried a connotation of wealth that I never hoped to achieve. Those were the girls who lived in Hope Valley, who were invited to participate in Cotillion, and who then became debutantes, complete with virginal white dresses at the Debutante Ball. It still happens every year, and I’m sure those not invited are still slightly, if silently, devastated. I recall presenting a “who cares” attitude to the world when my classmates all went off to dancing lessons – I was volunteering at the hospital, and working in a restaurant – but I still had a touch of longing in my heart. I spent my life on the fringes of the wealthy society of Durham, because I went to a great private school; I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. In reality, I think I had a much better time being on the outside.
But I digress. I guess you’re used to that. I will make an excellent old lady storyteller someday.
Back to the street and the banana.
I remember that, as a very (and I mean very) small girl, certain rules of propriety were hammered into me in that gentle way that only southern matriarchs can hammer. I believe these rules came from my Father’s Mother (known to all as Coochie), though it’s possible that both my Mother’s Mother and my Mother herself had an iron hand/velvet glove touch in reinforcing them. My Mother’s Mother was much more of a rough-and-tumble farm/mountain woman, but she stil made sure I had a hat, gloves, and a purse when she took me to church when she came to visit.
And as an aside, all the women in my family have that rough-and-tumble mountain woman touch to them. Myself included.
I can’t remember all the rules all at once. I seem to remember them piecemeal; that is to say, when I am breaking them, something stirs within me and I hear a gentle drawl in my ear, reminding me that I am violating some code of ladylike behavior.
Eating on the street is one of those rules. I don’t think I have ever, in my entire life, purchased a piece of food from a street food cart. Because then I would have to eat it on the street. And that just isn’t done. Whenever I find myself having to eat anything on the street, I find myself uncomfortable. Because the bottom line?
Ladies don’t eat on the street.
What else don’t ladies do?
Ladies don’t brush their hair in public. I do this, once in a while, but just as with eating, I feel uncomfortable, like several generations of southern ancestral women are looking over my shoulder, pursing their lips (which is a thing they did so very well to express their displeasure with something, while not actually uttering anything critical).
Ladies certainly don’t apply make-up in public. And this is assuming that one can still be considered a lady (as opposed to a harlot) if one even wears make-up. Coochie wore powder (she had several lovely compacts), a touch of lipstick, and a dab of rouge from the rouge pot. But not too much. And that was it.
I still have a vague feeling that I should be wearing gloves when I am out. I actually love wearing gloves – not big, Sasquatch, winter gloves, but dainty cotton, voile, or nylon gloves that fit your hands like, well, a glove. They are cool, and soothing, and your hands feel like they are being charmed and charming at the same time. Like you’re hiding something lovely beneath the fabric. (I have pretty hands, so I can say that I am.)
As I said, all the notions of what ladies do and don’t do aren’t at the surface. There are a few that rest beneath the surface, such as “Never use a toothpick in public” (though I don’t like it when anyone, male or female, does that) and “Ladies don’t chew gum in public” (a habit which I still find off-putting, though my Mother used to chew it in the car, but I think the car wasn’t quite considered public.)
My Mother also was relatively cautious about the length of my clothes. The rule was that it had to cover my “zatch”. The definition of the “zatch” area was slightly fuzzy (no pun intended) because we didn’t discuss the beginnings and endings of such physical limits in great detail. I believe when I asked, her answer was, “If you have to ask, you know what the answer is.” Suffice it to say, I knew. And now, though I am as far from a prude as I am from living in Antarctica, I find myself looking at 20-somethings teetering down Larimer Street on a Friday night in 5-inch heels and skirts that perhaps come up just shy of the “zatch zone”, and pursing my lips.
Perhaps I’m a Southern matriarch in the making after all.
The verdict in the molestation trial of Jerry Sandusky is in: Guilty.
I read Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel’s article just after breakfast. His previous articles about the case have been fair and shown no bias, which in itself marks him as an excellent journalist, particularly in the sports universe, which often rushed to the defense of its heroes and legends when their worthiness is challenged. With this article, it was as if Mr. Wetzel had let a dam burst. There is no mistaking his personal feelings about this case. And I admire him for expressing them.
I am glad that Sandusky’s victims have found some justice. What happened to them can never be undone, and has left permanent scars but perhaps this gives them an opportunity to live somewhat more peacefully with those scars, knowing their stories have been told, and believed. They have been vindicated.
My own reaction to this verdict has fascinated me. This man is guilty. And yet, somehow, when I read the verdict, I felt a strum of guilt, sorrow, and doubt in myself. Like my childhood self remembering how I must have been mistaken about what was happening, how I should respect and pity my abuser, how it was me that was crazy, not him – not an old grandfatherly figure. Shit.
This has stirred up a lot of stuff for me. How we protect our abusers by our silence, and how we are mentally manipulated by them so that the concept of right and wrong is twisted into something like a cheap candelabra pulled from the ruins of an incredibly hot fire.
I am not one to revel in the misfortunes of others, even when they brought those misfortunes – and this guilty verdict – upon themselves. Perhaps I should find more peace in justice. Perhaps part of my own issue is that my abuser died before I (or anyone else) could confront him. And his sins died with him, except in the minds and souls of those others (and I’m sure there were other, not just me) that he abused. There was no justice there.
I guess I will have to think on this some more.