I remember being very young and resting my head on a small pillow in my mom’s lap. My ears were hurting and all I can remember is the warmth of my mom’s hand on my head. That is my first memory.
I remember climbing the quince trees in my yard and finding a comfortable branch to sit on and I remember the feeling that nothing in my world was even remotely upsetting. I remember my sister trying to coax me to get down to play with her and the others. Nothing could make me. As I think of it, I hear laughter and loud children voices and if I close my eyes I can almost feel the rough surface of the branch I was sitting on.
I remember sitting under the grapevine with my dad, late in the evening when the moon was up and talking about life and its meanders; it was summer and the night breeze was gently warm and carrying my dad’s cigarette smoke into the dark night. I came to be very adverse to smoking but the ever so familiar smell of that particular brand my dad was smoking when I was little (always outside, never indoors) will forever be a reminder of my dad, his voice in the dark and the comfort I felt sitting next to him on nights like that on the green bench under the grapevine.
I remember that every time I went home from university my mom would be at the train station watching every train car carefully until she found me. Her face would light up and she would hurry to be there when I got off. Her hugs, her smiles and her ‘I am so happy you are home’ bear the strongest imprint in my heart. My mom passed away more than eight years ago. Pain never went away, it has dulled and made itself a home in my heart and it made me realize that I am the keeper of our common memories, and I will remain one until.
I remember my mom’s hands as she made coffee, or reaching out to caress my hair. I remember her touch.
I often wondered about the photos on my childhood. They mean so much to me. They mean the same to my sister. They meant the world to our parents. Beyond that… Hard to tell. There was a time when memories stayed with people because they were told as stories. Others stayed in writing, scribbles and drawings on walls. I envy that. My armfuls of photos, yours too, the many faces of us passing through life, they are as permanent as they are perishable. Armfuls of paper, easy to dispose of by others who cannot relate to them.
There is no solid surface to keep them alive more solid that my heart’s. My memories are alive because I am.
It startled me a few days ago when I was sent a link. It prompted me to create a memory. I did. After I did and ‘Finish’, I teared up watching the memory depart into an ocean of bright bits – other people memories. It is a site that reminds of Alzheimer’s disease and its dreadful toll on memory you see. Seeing the memory I wrote there disappear as a dot was humbling. Here it is. It struck me of how many dots I am carrying around not even aware of them, long lost from the conscious mind, settled forever in pockets of brain that may or may not reveal them.
Like play cards facing down on a table… I wonder if I will ever be able to turn them all face up and shuffle through one more time…
My sister has turned many of my forgotten cards face up. She is one of my precious keepers of memories. She would tell me of things I am too young to remember, and as she does, I see them contouring as memories, becoming mine, as they rightfully are.
My parents used to be the keepers of many of my memories as well. Voices, faces, bits of life, precious as life itself and so empowering when they happen, so easy to forget; not out of carelessness but because life keeps on happening.
I want to remember. Seeing the memory I created disappear into the sea of many made me think of all the ones I will never be able to pull back from the ocean of life past. I am slowly becoming the keeper of my own memories, I am the keeper of my boys’ memories. Just like it should.
I remember saying goodbye to my dad last time I visited. We hugged and cried; like never before, he let himself be seen by me and I did too. I did not realize that I was becoming, right then and there, the keeper of that memory. My dad’s health has been deteriorating since and he remembers very little now. Though they are with him, he does not remember the cigarette butt volcanoes he used to make for us as children, making our eyes grow wide with wonder, he does not remember the Sunday mornings of ‘true stories’ he would tell us as we were snuggled under warm blankets, and he does not remember the starry winter nights when he would take me and my sister for long sled rides, all wrapped in blankets and staring at a sky that was as infinite as my belief that nothing could change my world.
Everything did, many times since. Life did. It is what life does.
That’s how it makes us keepers of memories. Oceans of them.