the other day we took a walk on the lake. we stopped at a low brick wall and sat down to watch the water and sky dance with each other. out on the horizon was a sailboat, its white sail billowing in the breeze. it made me think of a day i had spent on lake michigan sailing with friends. it was a really long time ago and i couldn’t remember the details. i don’t know if that can be blamed on a bad memory (remembering too many other details through the years), motherhood (remembering too many other people’s details through the years) or menopause (no explanation needed). but this is what it made me feel:
suddenly i realized that, with the loss now of both my sweet momma (the storer of many of my details) and my daddy (who valiantly tried to store as many of my details but could never compete with mom’s capacity to store such things), there was no one to ask.
i was instantly blindsided by the profound thought that if i can’t remember something, it’s now gone.
doesn’t that just stop you in your tracks? it did me. big chunks of my life are now nebulous floating material if i can’t grasp the thin threads of those memories and bring their gossamer ribbons back into the forefront of my brain. incredible.
you know how photographs become memories in your mind’s eye? you remember an event or a person as a snapshot, often because you have seen a snapshot of that very event or person.
all the tactile pieces of the moment, the visceral pieces, the emotional pieces are filed with that snapshot.
the path of your life is punctuated with vivace snapshots, hopefully so numerous that, were it a written symphony, there wouldn’t exist enough instruments to play it, nor would it be able to be performed as quickly as those memorysnapshots travel around in our heads and hearts, one dissolving into the next and the next and the next.
i remember one of the last times i sat in the rocking chair nursing one of my babies to sleep late one night. i distinctly thought to myself – “memorize this moment” – and i did just that….took a snapshot of the moment for my mind’s eye special box of memories and stored it away. i remember how the rocking chair felt, i remember the smell of soft baby in my arms, i remember humming, i remember the physical feeling of nursing, i remember the light and shadow in the room.
but how often do we remember to do this? to actively store away a moment before it fleetingly becomes The Past? we passively, and for good reason in our rushed lives, move from one moment to the next, checking things off the lists we hold. it’s like when you are behind a video camera on christmas morning. (now, i come from the age of VHS cameras and maybe the smaller 8mm size, not iphones on which you could easily record the glee of the holiday.) behind the camera i always felt removed from the moments, missing some of how it felt. sometimes, it is just easier to remember if you don’t have The Movie of it. easier. or better. or more complete. or more important.
i don’t know now what i will do to retrieve the memories that are confused or incomplete. who will i check in with now that the other rememberers are gone? how will i fill in the blanks in between the snapshots? how will i fill in the snapshots? is The Movie of my life now less complete because of the missing details i can’t quite get to? or is The Movie of my life more complete now because i am so aware of that which i can remember AND that which i can’t?