pictures from the vault

August 9, 2011

memories, when they come fast, and in plurals, feel wave-like, starting from above and washing down over head and heart, knee caps and ankles, where they gather and pool at your feet, sitting patiently while another bucket load dumps from above. i can’t recall a time, even in the swish and sway of this past nickle of years, that i have felt so at the mercy of memory. a wash of memory hits and i am removed from a given task at hand, as though the picture reel behind me has been changed and the moving pictures in front of me are different and suddenly in black and white. i am sucked in to a moment, or suspended set of moments, and the sheer ache and pull of what was, has me, for seconds or minutes, somewhere else entirely.

what drives memory? a landmark, a song, a smell, the yearning for a moment that came, lived, seared itself somewhere, and is now gone? memory is for me mostly the recollection of different places lived, for though certainly this side of chameleon, each city or town or continent i have lived in or on has by necessity or surrounding described who i was in that particular moment and place. less a function of age or maturity than the who, what, where of a time. and of course the subtler pieces of experiences that have lived and survive still: the way light can saturate the side of an old church or building, the smell of rain on city sidewalks, the bowls in that one little bakery that came filled with the perfect combination of coffee and hot milk, and how it was to wrap your hands around one of them. the rhythm of a place, its feel, the tone, its sense of itself. thunder showers in montreal came hard and sideways; thunder showers from inside the family farmhouse in iowa seemed to launch straight from above and the charge of them, what moved energetically and electrically through them, could fill your lungs.

but all of this is landscape, and still-life, and the flash of polaroids that record our lives. and for once, it is not past settings that gnaw at me and have me pulling up moments from long ago to look at and feel momentary longing for. instead it is the people within the settings, and if i could go back and kiss each and every one of you square on the lips, i would. though truthfully, some i would kiss longer than others.

i have a few friends who, for different reasons, are making amends in their lives. you know, going back to the people they hurt, or offended, or didn’t give enough to, and saying, i fucked up, and i am here to take responsibility. and me, over here in my life, well, you know the story. i work hard at love and gratitude, and i work especially hard to give a lot, as much as i can, in the ways i can. yet for all of my intentions of goodness and truth and the way i try to love with my whole heart, i am seeing there is movement i need to make. movement as acknowledgment, thank you, i noticed, i saw you. the need to address is stemming absolutely from this onslaught of remembrance; in each memory lifted, raised also is a desire to acknowledge what was, soaked in the who, what, where of those moments come and gone.

my father, in just the past year, is a different man than he has been before. his memory has shifted, his center of power diminished, and there is now a duality there that bounces between ego, clarity and humor (who he has always been), and the other side which has him confused, slowed down, un-anchored, un-remembering. it is age, the dulling of mental prowess, or maybe something bigger, and as much as i know it is simply that tough, unsavory piece of a life grown older, witnessing the shift from too much of a distance and in dozens of tiny moments has this hole in my heart helpless and ever-widening.

this is the man who has moved through my life with me, more than any other. given me countless opportunities and unsolicited advice and a flowing stream of love, more than any other. had my back, more than any other. and for the countless memories to draw from, the one that i always come back to is owen, and me, after he skipped a meeting to take me to the dentist. i was ten years old maybe, and he had on a suit and already then his hair was silver and he was handsome. we went to a restaurant after the appointment and ordered fresh peach pie, huge slabs of it, oozing chunks of fruit and that cinnamon sugar-y syrup it sits in. it was very anti-post-dental appointment, and our secret, right before dinner. he drank decaf and i had milk, and i remember glowing in that hour, just my dad and me, talking about life between bites of pie.

i want to eat pie with everyone. everyone that is, who has figured in somehow, somewhere, and so graciously. but there isn’t enough time, enough pie, enough reasons any more to carve out time with a handful of people who figured in so big, so importantly in different series of moments. some are still here, with me for the long haul, and if those people don’t know how deep my adoration of them runs, i have failed. and for the others, those who have separate, full lives that don’t intersect with mine but occasionally if at all, than i can only offer a few words – a sort of virtual pie eating date – to say thank you.

thank you to the women who show up in all their gorgeous depth once, and again, and then again. thank you to the handful of men who are here in enduring friendship. thank you for yellow cuffs and yellow daisies. thank you for traveling a continent-length to visit me with your heavy heart bared, your own walls at half-mast while you built me a real one so i would have a room of my own. thank you for rhinestones on my thirtieth, tree branches on my fortieth, and purple butterflies leading to my front door. thank you for showing up in my work day with a latte in hand, for the perfect cashmere sweater, for my feet in your lap before we even really knew each other. thank you for lust, for love, for longing. thank you for witnessing my vows though i didn’t witness yours. thank you for encouraging the stalking of postmen before the perfect gift arrives. thank you for wendy’s frosties before i could drive. thank you for protecting me while thousands of cappuccinos passed hands. thank you for a gray-brown belly and dog-paw love. thank you for the jokes i never thought i could laugh at, and a decade of breath on my neck.

finally, thank you for laughter moving like water over stones, for friday night book fests in bed and living room dance sessions and the pummel of kid-love. for calling my name when the monster seems huge, for eyes wide open in moments of joy, for bringing me water and blankets when you think it is me who needs to be parented. thank you for choosing me, in all your green-eyed complexity, to guide and love you.