On Memory

Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things. ~ Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal
Of memory, I was told many, many years ago (by someone whose name now escapes me) that people only remember those things that are important to them, yet we can't choose what we'll ultimately recollect. It just happens.

Back in '92, a coworker named Corinne likened individual memory banks to file cabinets - with the least important "memories" just thrown away; most memories necessitating a serious chronological shakedown after having been filed away for such a long time; and the dearest of memories scribbled on virtual Post-its and slapped upon the front of said drawers. (And, further expanding upon this, I, myself, imagine the sweetest, once-in-a-lifetime memories as tattoos... Indelible.) I also remember that Corinne and her new hubby had decided never to have children and to travel the globe. And that she had white-blonde hair and killer red lips, and ordered huge salads to be delivered every day to her tiny windowed corner of our art department on the 47th floor of the Empire State Building... which smelled of cigarette smoke and Eternity perfume. All of this filed under "C" for Corinne and "1991-1993" for my very first years after college.

It's interesting to talk to friends I haven't seen in awhile and to go over shared memories--to find out how we've remembered the exact spans of time together quite differently. I will remember a moment when a friend said something hilarious and how we reacted fantastically at that moment, and she will most likely say something to the effect of, "Hmm... nope, I don't remember that. But do you remember when you ____?" And I won't. Why was my memory important to me and hers to her? I guess that's all got to do with who we ultimately are. And no, we're not talking beer here. These are old memories that shaped lives...

I remember that my heart broke for its very first time in the State College, PA, Pizza Hut back in the Spring of 1990. I couldn't feel the floor beneath me; the walls disappeared; my parents' chatter was far away; I couldn't swallow my crust; I think I couldn't breathe, for at least a minute, anyways. Definitely for a moment... No one else has that memory. And I'm pretty sure he moved on without looking back that very same day we'd said goodbye. Unless, of course, his heart broke a few weeks later, at maybe a party. Or in bed at night... Maybe his heart broke years later over me... or maybe it never did. Regardless, we had the very same relationship, but our memories have certainly changed over the years and perhaps were never in sync. Sometimes, I think, breakups happen at very different times. In memory, for sure.

Always, the good stuff is said to be of memories...

Nana's long, beautiful fingers delicately displayed gorgeous brightly colored vases upon her table. She would rearrange the freshly cut flowers a few times before the sunlight shining through the glass squares in the dining room hit the cobalt blue of the vase perfectly. And the whole room shimmered and then she was gone... if only to procure a chair for herself and come back, sit down, and talk to me forever, it would seem... Nana would talk and talk and talk to me... She let me think that a 7 (11, 14, 18, 31) year old's thoughts were always front-and-center. To learn ~ to want to learn ~ that was always lovely to her. As was her beautiful Pop:

Pop carried me on his shoulders when I was four so I could see the silly family figurines sitting atop every door frame. He'd jump around until I agreed to pat the llama perched seven feet above the green carpeting, say "hello" to the plastic bunny, and bow goodnight to the 3-inch-tall felt covered Svenskalina girl chilling out atop the crown moulding. Pop, in my memory, made it OK for me to giggle and to take chances.

Grampy was gentle and serene, in my memory. His smile was bigger than his whole face and it made me want to hug him constantly. With him I was happy. He taught me the importance of working with your hands. He was a sculptor, a gardener, and a cook. I will never forget his hands, his smile, and his hugs.
Grammy was extremely particular about making sure we all had enough vegetables. She'd push the bowls of carrots and beans closer and closer to our plates and never sat down while we ate. I remember looking up and wondering why she was so concerned and somehow knowing it was because she loved us. I miss Grammy.
Dad. Being enveloped by my dad's arms, shoulders, elbows, hugs is my earliest recollection of him... But my first actual 'memory' of him? It's hard to go that far back... I may not remember the actual first memory of him because he's been a part of my life forever, but I do remember being five and having bad dreams and him corralling me in to his and mom's bed. Both of them hugging me throughout the night. With Rodney, I've always had a place to be safe.

Mom. I remember climbing up to the top of the ladder at the neighborhood playground and falling with a distinct 'thud' to the ground. I ran and ran back home, not crying, until I saw her downstairs doing laundry. Pretty much melted into her arms and felt so safe. It may not be my first memory of her, but it's my first feeling of how I felt with her. Always so safe.

Patty and I were inseparable sisters, especially when we were really young. My earliest memories with Patty involve simply being together... sick days, fun days, boring run-of-the-mill days. She was always there with me. I remember thinking that her seventeen months of prior experience in this world made her my heroine. I looked up to her since I can remember, and I still do.

I met one of my dearest friends, Marlo, when we were 12 and it was the simplest greeting: "Do you have a Tootsie Roll or something for my breath?" Game on, new friend. Get your pre-teen self ready for making new memories with our children 30 years from now.

I remember Eileen's smile the first time we met; with Heather, it was her long, beautiful hair; Ana spoke to me about going to the casino; at first I thought Theresa didn't like me; Julie, I met on the lunch line in 7th grade and she was laughing at a joke... And I met Halli at an RA meeting our first night at PSU. She was wearing a red and white striped tank top, jean cutoffs, and talked about her summer as a lifeguard. We joked later that night about how none of us believed Rhonda the RA's story about how it wasn't a hickey, but rather a burn from her curling iron. Yah right, Rhonda. All wonderful friends of mine for decades to come, and I remember the exact moment I met each and every one of them. Because Inner Jen thought enough to put those memories on Post-its. Damn I'm good.

Angelo. The funniest thing is, I remember that he smelled like snow. And I could have sworn I already knew him. He reminded me of my past and of what I envisioned the future to be. Right at the exact moment I met him by the juke box. And his Elvis Costello glasses, for sure, also played a big part in this, my all-time favorite memory of meeting someone. This tattoo on my heart.

Not sure why I am writing a post about memories... Maybe it's because I see great memories happening every moment around here. Little daily memories that I'm fearful will slip away...

Saturday, June 4, 2011, 8pm
Will I remember in years to come that AJ was calling "C'mon, Lalaaaaa!" while he raced ahead of her? Will I remember the look of pure joy on his face when he crossed the invisible finish line of our driveway?
Will I remember ten years from now that Lila asked me within minutes of this shot whether or not I loved dolphins? (And when I answered 'yes', that she responded, "Why don't we have a dolphin named Patty?")

Right before AJ fell asleep here, he asked me if he could make me happy. I want to remember this, but in the event that I don't... if there are just too many things to remember in life and this memory happens to slip through the cracks of time, I can read this silly little blog and be reminded that I said, "Yes. You make me happy every single day."

Have a memorable Tuesday!


suz rado duddy said…
Hit the nail on the head with this one. Perfect in every way. Always remember this... you make so many people happy with your words, your smile and your beautiful heart. Great job in so many ways. Two thumbs up.
JennyCB said…
xoxo Suz... :o) (Thanks.)

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