Monday, February 23, 2009

Reflections


I remember the day. Kind of. It was a Sunday, in the middle of summer. I was ten years old. Give or take.

But it was definitely a Sunday. Definitely.

It was a big yawn of an afternoon. You remember how summers were as a kid…like one, streaming reel of scratchy boredom, spliced with short bursts of flaming freedom. I was lying in bed, still in my nightgown, reading a book I wasn’t real thrilled with. Stuffed animals crowded my elbows. I stared at my reflection in the closet mirror, feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

And then I had an idea.

I would remember this moment. As in, forever. I would remember my disheveled hair on the pillow. The restless bobbing of my foot. Sarah Beth, my favorite doll (yeah, I was getting too old for dolls), looking on with her pert, eternal smile. And in remembering these small details, the moment would be staked down. Given a weight, and definition, that it didn’t really deserve. A photograph, filed.

Me . . . bed . . . summer Sunday.

At the time, of course, I wasn’t exactly thinking these things. I probably just did it on a lark (I don’t actually remember my motivations). Maybe the idea of carving something meaningful out of nothingness appealed to my nascent writing self. Who knows? I don't, anymore.

But I worked at recalling this memory. And I succeeded . . . sort of.

As a result, I have a glimpse into a typical day of my youth. Which is kind of cool. It’s usually the big moments we remember (or think we do—our slippery brains fool us often enough). But let’s face it—our lives our mostly comprised of the everyday, banal moments like the one I chose to honor. If our present selves are quilts of pieced memories, these kinds of moments would be the dark, vast backgrounds against which the precious, colorful memories can pop and dazzle.

And yet, it’s not a very satisfying memory. Its surface is fuzzy. The details I recall don’t say a lot about the person I was. And isn’t that what we want memory to accomplish? To resurrect ourselves in some way, and feel the thread of time connecting past to present quiver. To find out why we are who we are today, and how our past experiences feed our present desires. To reach some understanding, touch some elusive meaning.

And yes, to share those revelations with others.

Stuffed animals and messy hair don’t offer me much today. But there is a connection I feel to that summer Sunday, and the girl who looked in that mirror.

The desire to remember. To hold tight.

And its mirror.

The fear of loss. Of oblivion.


24 comments:

George said...

Our yesterdays, defines our today's, our tomorrows will take us to our end that defines who we were...

sawan said...

being retrospective was never so intense!

the walking man said...

Was that the first time you took a seeming inconsequential moment from the short term memory and forced it to the long term?

Sarah, whether the moment is defining or not the description of the moment leads to a definition of the girl that the woman was.

A discerning reader
A child who knew how to relax during summers down moments as opposed to finding "trouble"
A dedicated dreamer looking to make the present forever live in memory


There is more there do you see it?

Catvibe said...

My doll was called Sleepy Baby. She was a stuffed animal form with a long pointy hat and pajamas with feet and her little face that peeked out. I remember her like it was yesterday still.

It is really strange how certain moments, tho uninteresting in all other ways, are remembered forever when all others have faded away. Very poignantly written. Did you have secret languages as a kid?

Aniket Thakkar said...

It pains when we desperately try to remember each an every deatil of some part of memory, that we want to hold dear... to relieve it each day.. and one day it no longer remains a memory it somehow diffuses to become a part of your existance!

In love with your words, as always...

Catvibe said...

By the way, forgot to mention before that your photo is awesome.

Jennifer said...

Sarah, this is beautiful:

"If our present selves are quilts of pieced memories, these kinds of moments would be the dark, vast backgrounds against which the precious, colorful memories can pop and dazzle."

I wish for everyone much pop and dazzle. :)

I'm curious--when you recall this moment, do you see out through your eyes, or do you see yourself on the bed?

Aine said...

Lovely reflection on how we use markers to prove our existence. I find it interesting that we do this as children. Adults (well, most of us...) are aware of our mortality and the fleeting nature of time. We put great effort into creating lasting impressions of ourselves that we hope will remain on Earth long past our breaths. But why do children also mark memories? Wisdom? Intuition?

I, too, have vivid memories of making conscious efforts to imprint my memory with "mundane" daily life. Interestingly, I used to pay specific attention to details in my childhood home. As if I thought I would need to recognize those details to prove that I was there. I still remember, in precise detail, the pattern that the tree branches created outside my bedroom window. There was a backwards "N" that held such meaning for me. And I can still see it today when I visit my parents house. It requires positioning myself precisely where my head would've lain on my childhood bed (which is no longer there). And viewing it again is like fitting a key into my emotional memory vault. Time is revisited when the door to those emotions is opened.

Somehow, I believe that you don't need to search those memory markers to find "you", Sarah. You are as you always have been. Layers of learning and experience have been added, but "you" are still inside. And you are beautiful!

Loved the photo too!
:)

Aniket Thakkar said...

@ Aine:
Not my place to say but Couldn't resist... thats the most beautiful comment... I've ever come across on any blog so far! Am sure Sarah would agree! :-D Its an honor to know you such fine people!

Sarah Hina said...

George, well said. And somewhere in there is the freedom of right now.

Sawan, I'm glad you were absorbed by this look back! Thank you. :)

Walking Man, it was the first time. I remember doing it several times after that, but this one is the most anchored.

And yes, I can see all those things you have so astutely plucked out. Perhaps, in sharing these moments and feelings, I'm also looking for someone to explain myself to me. You seem to do a great job of that. And I thank you for it.

Cat, I didn't really have any secret languages. I think I counted on books and games of imagination to act out any secret longings. I was generally pretty quiet.

I bet Sarah Beth would have had a lot of fun with Sleepy Baby. :)

And thank you about that photo! Capturing it certainly boosted my Saturday afternoon.

Aniket, that was very well described. Even if we don't consciously remember those details anymore, they've shaped our present selves.

I found myself thinking about the death of loved ones and memory, too. How, in some way, forgetting is a balm on that pain. But it's always somewhat seemed like a tragedy to me that the pain should dissipate. Because it means that the person isn't within us in quite the same way. We've started to let go.

jason evans said...

Thank you for opening this window in your past. For letting us look on this moment. In doing so, you've accomplished much of your mission in capturing it in the first place.

Oblivion is a hungry monster. Ride at it hard and strike your blow deep.

Sarah Hina said...

Jennifer, I see myself in the mirror. So I guess I'm seeing through my eyes. Interesting question!! :)

I definitely wish for more pop and dazzle. :) And the ability to find it in those more commonplace moments, too.

(Btw, how was New York?? :))

Aine, I'm not surprised you did this, too. I really love your description of the key entering our emotional vaults. That's just beautiful. :) I can see you lying on your bed there, too, and imagine what you saw now.

I think it must be some kind of intuition that guides us to do this. I wasn't that contemplative as a child, in general. :P

And I do agree with Aniket--your comment is one of the most touching things I've ever read about myself. In writing it, you've shown just how beautiful you are, too.

(yes, I definitely need that IM hug emoticon about right now!! :D)

Aniket, it's an honor to know you, too. And thank you for calling attention to Aine's words in the lovely way you did. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Jason, it's not going to get me. I've decided.

I'm glad I could let you look through this window. And many others. :) I feel the same way about the windows you've shared with us.

David Cranmer said...

I think we can all identify with this piece. I had a toy monkey (named Monkey:) and he still waits for me at my moms to come back and play. Peter Pan moved on... Well done, Sarah.

Catvibe said...

To Aine, I'm so glad you wrote that. Really great... I love thinking of you getting into the finding the backwards N position. :-)

And Sarah- I love that you are drawn to memories and inward thoughts to see and grow. We all benefit from how you see it and put it into words in your unique and gorgeous way. It feels like it was really a risk for you to put those thoughts out there. So I want to thank you for making yourself vulnerable because it is my treat to hear your expression.

Hoodie said...

Wow, amazing you would write this at a time I've been pondering some of the same things.

I was thinking just the other day that as we reflect back on our past selves it is impossible to fully remember what we were really thinking because, even though we know that we knew less then, it is impossible not project our current selves into that person. Is that confusing?

You definitely know how to frame your thoughts better than I do.

Charles Gramlich said...

Years ago I started keeping a sort of memory list, but I recorded far few details and so the memories are only shreded ones, bits and pieces. I realize at 50 that I'm so different from the kid I was that I hardly know him. Except for the imagination. We share that.

Bob said...

I can't tell you how many times I've done the same thing... like, stepped out of a moment, and decided, I really want to remember this... even if it might seem an ordinary moment to anyone else... so beautifully written out, I just kept nodding the whole time I read this... and now, with home and family and childhood so far gone and behind me, I treasure those "snapshots" I made for myself without ever really knowing how valuable they'd become.

Karen said...

This is a beautiful, thought-provoking entry, Sarah.

I've often wondered how many of my memories are actually mine and how many are shaped by my family's stories.

I think the budding writer in you was creating even then as you noted the detail-- disheveled hair on the pillow, restless bobbing of the foot -- and worked at being conscious of the moment. These powers of observation serve you well.

How much is memory, and how much is creation? And which is real? Those are my questions.

J.C. Montgomery said...

Reading this brought back a memory I made although not as consciously as you did, but one that I wanted to hold tightly - and have.

My grandfather mixed his own cement, but was always upset that my little sister and I were always playing in the sand he'd set aside.

One day we show up and he had built us our own, beautiful sandbox under the apple tree. Nearby, was a creek, and while sitting beneath the tree, playing in the sand, watching my grandfather work, I could hear it babbling away, soothing my day and my life.

To this day, sandy creekbeds have a special meaning. Not to mention tart green apples.

Thanks Sara. For the story, and the memories.

Sarah Hina said...

David, I bet you've kept a bit of Peter within yourself. :) And I wish I still had that doll, but alas, I don't. Memory's a good substitute, I guess.

Cat, you know me so well. :) Yes, I do feel squirmy about sharing these things. So I deeply appreciate your words of support and your particular powers of perception. Thank you, dear friend!

Hoodie, that makes perfect sense! :) If our past experiences shape our present selves, then it's certainly likely that we cannot peel apart our present values and perceptions from coloring the past experiences. It's really almost impossible to have objectivity about ourselves, isn't it?

Charles, and that is no slight connection. So much of what we hold dear flows from that imagination. And yours is vivid.

I wish I'd been prescient enough to record my memories in that way! Very cool. :)

Bob, I'm thrilled that you, and others, are resonating so strongly with this post! Making a conscious decision to record those memories has served us all well. That child in you must have intuited how meaningful those snapshots would become for you. I'm so glad.

Karen, those are thought-provoking questions! :) I think memories are like impressionist paintings, in a way. The details are smudged and indistinct so often, but when we glance at the painting, we see it as a "whole." Our mind fills the gaps.

Your question about what is real is wonderful. If I believe in something, no matter how illusory, I think there's something there. It might not be truth, but it's real. To me.

Thank you for your kind words, and wonderful insights. Always. :)

JC, thank you so much for sharing that beautiful moment. It filled my heart to read it, so I can just imagine how overflowing yours must have been to live it. And to remember its vividness with such texture and clarity.

Your grandfather sounded like a dear man. I'm glad you were able to see him again in such lovely, lovely light.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

You just proved what I suspected about you. You have always been a deep thinker. ;)

Even as a child, you were an observer of the world around you. Not just an observer - but one who wanted to mark a moment to remember forever. Perhaps, in this way, you were laying the foundation of "writer." You observed and then recorded what you saw for all time. Now, you have so beautifully shared this moment with us.

"But there is a connection I feel to that summer Sunday, and the girl who looked in that mirror."

...being in touch with one's self is very important.

Wonderful post!

Sarah Hina said...

K, I really like the thought of my writing roots developing back then. I rarely felt a strong urge to write, or create, as a child, which has always unsettled me, somehow. But maybe the right temperament was always there, if sheltered a little. ;)

Thank you for that lovely and generous insight. It feels wonderful to share these thoughts and memories with so many kindred souls! :)

Vesper said...

I loved reading this, Sarah. It is strange how some moments, seemingly unimportant, stick to our memory for ever. I have them too, brief fragments of unbelievable intensity that I just leave there afraid that if I tried to brush them with more than a furtive thought I would loose them; that putting them into words would somehow change them. Still, I loved reading this about you.
xoxoxo