Mem­o­ries live on

Record Observer - - Opinion -

They say that each time you re­mem­ber some­thing, you are only re­call­ing the last time you had that mem­ory, and so with each re­mem­ber­ing, the mem­ory some­how shifts. I don’t know if this is true, but af­ter to­day, I am won­der­ing what makes a mem­ory the way it is.

To­day, my mother un­cov­ered a rem­nant of my youth. I feel it is not so long ago, but also a life­time ago. Time has an un­canny way of pass­ing in that re­gard. In the box she brought me was a Bi­ble, one I must have car­ried to Sun­day school at the church I at­tended with my par­ents, cousins, grand­par­ents and great-grand­par­ents.

If you had asked me to re­call that first Bi­ble, I wouldn’t have been able to de­scribe it, but in my hands the mem­o­ries came flood­ing back, over­whelm­ingly. The bind­ing loose and the col­ors faded on the cover — mem­o­ries that must’ve been stored be­tween the ages of 4 and 8, ac­cord­ing to the mem­o­ra­bilia tucked be­tween the pages — were as vivid as this morn­ing. I wouldn’t have thought that pos­si­ble.

A card I had drawn for my dad was also in­side, the hand­writ­ing, the blocky print of a first-grader. I clearly re­mem­bered sit­ting in my mother’s kitchen painstak­ingly draw­ing lit­tle red ap­ples and blue­ber­ries on the bushes and trees I had cre­ated. I re­mem­ber the warmth of the crayon gripped tightly in my hand. The rush of that memor y was in­tense and sur­pris­ing to say the least, more so since my fa­ther has been gone now 16 years. So on that mem­ory tum­bled many, many more.

It’s kind of like walk­ing up to the river­bank, in­tend­ing to gaze along the sur­face and bask in the warm sun­light, only to be caught up in the rush of the rapids just around the bend. Pow­er­ful and un­ex­pected, but still the same river that only mo­ments be­fore was peace­ful.

Un­cov­ered in­side also, a sur­prise. A tiny book­let en­ti­tled The Big White House on the Cor­ner. The house to me was fa­mil­iar, from sto­ries re­peated by my grand­fa­ther and un­cles, even though when I knew the house its ex­te­rior and pur­pose had al­ready changed. In­side the book­let, the stor y of the big white house un­folds, a sur­pris­ing — to me — his­tory of my fam­ily. Not so that the story was new, but my per­spec­tive as an adult cer­tainly had changed the im­port, and even more sur­pris­ing the au­thor, my great-grand­mother, Naomi.

Of the many mem­o­ries I have of this beloved woman — a ten­der, tiny, but fierce per­son who could seem­ingly pull a meal for twenty out of her apron pock­ets; soft, wrin­kled skin that smelled of lilac and pep­per­mint and but­ter­scotch candies — I never knew her to be a writer. I was de­lighted to read her words and pleased to think that a lit­tle of her lives on in me.

I’ve been away from this col­umn for too long. I envy my friend Dan and his weekly pil­grim­age to put thoughts on pa­per for as long as he has. I don’t know if I’m ready to be back, but to deny these mem­o­ries a chance to be writ­ten was some­thing I could hold back no more than that river holds back from the rapids. Some things, some thoughts, just have to be al­lowed to flow.

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