Sitting on the carpet combing tracks down your long brown hair with a blue-handled brush —
Sitting on the carpet across from your wrinkled hands shuffling cards for a game of Gin —
Sitting on the carpet with my knees tucked inside my nightgown, mouth cartoon-like forming the words,
“Tell ’em Large Marge sent ya.”
Little you giggling —
Sitting on the carpet by the sliding glass door where the morning sun warms me like a cat napping.
You there, reading the Wednesday paper on Sunday, butt up in the air. You there, coming in from the market with bunches of brown paper bags, no handles, filled with Pepsi Free and Herr’s potato chips.
You. You. You.
Lying in bed on the top bunk in a wood cabin in Maine, you pushing my mattress up with your feet.
Lying in bed in the dark before midnight, phone between my pillow and my ear, you strumming the opening chords to “I Will.”
Lying in bed next to you watching Clueless, high on the Percoset you crushed into my black tea with honey —
Lying in bed just after the kids fall asleep, but just before I’m too tired to talk about my day … and yours.
You there, looking over at me, wondering what to do next. You there, proposing a back rub.
You. You. You.
You, your back to me, dancing drunk to Blues Traveler.
You, your back to me, roller blading down F Street.
You, your back to me, stir frying chicken strips in Teriyaki sauce, Billie Holiday singing “What A Little Moonlight Can Do.”
You, your back to me, on the beach behind Dolphinarium, music too fast for slow dancing.
You on your belly, too old anymore for Playmobil, for running over Roman soldiers with a Greek chariot —
You in the winter sun, face painted like an 18th century whore, dancing with ten other five year olds to “Gangnam Style.”
You leaning down, button nose towards the purple poppy, sniffing it the same way your father did when I fell in love with him.
You, head of curls on my lap, breathing with ease once again. You there, scent like shampoo.
You there. You. You. You.
= = = =
This post is in response to a Blogger Challenge proposed by friend Kronfusion. For more posts on #idealhours, check out the hashtag on Twitter.
I’m a hoarder.
I hoard paper, photos, t-shirts, cozy socks, cookies, memories, books.
Especially books. And memories.
I’m not so compulsive to be recruited for a reality TV show, but I’m bad enough that closets are always full and there’s never enough storage space.
Not in my house, not in my brain.
Despite this need to hang on, each time I have moved homes (about 6 or 7 times in adulthood), I’ve let go of things I didn’t think I would need anymore.
I purge — in the rapid, violent way the word evokes.
Goodbye to the japanime LeSportSac bag I coveted. Sayonara to the collector’s set of Leonardo DiCaprio movies on VHS. Farewell to the Fall-inspired finger paintings done by my son when he was 18 months old.
When we moved to Israel, a country that does not believe in closets, nor basements, my husband and I did a major purge — in the form of a yard sale and of giveaways to friends and neighbors. But there were about a dozen boxes we knew not to bother opening — for they would go into storage until we figured out exactly what this aliyah thing would mean for our family.
Boxes sealed in brown packing tape marked in hastily drawn capital letters:
AVI’S OLD PAINTINGS
MIXED TAPES, SCHOOL PAPERS OF JEN’S, DO NOT THROW AWAY!!!!!!
Those boxes landed in Israel on a cargo ship a few weeks ago and eventually — after the usual Israeli-style run-around at customs — arrived in our storage room/bomb shelter last week.
Carefully, carefully I am opening those cardboard boxes.
Because they aren’t just cardboard boxes, you know.
They are Pandora’s. Modern day Pandora’s boxes.
Carefully… because danger lurks in the folded over corners of hoarded memories
just as often as joyful surprise.
Carefully… because yellowed papers inside a stale smelling tupperware container may easily transform into messages in a bottle.
Carefully… because when you save, when you keep, when you store away, you might just get what you wish for one day–
a portal into the past.
a light unto what was once dark.
* * *
Watch this space to see what I discover inside a set of boxes.
If I had nothing else to do in my life right now — no full-time job, no school, no household chores, no parenting, no community commitments — I might decide to drop everything and pursue a journalistic investigation of music and memory.
Truth is, I am doing this already on a very personal level. For those of you who follow the blog, you might have already sensed my budding fascination in some of my recent posts (Check out “Both Sides,” Don’t You Remember You Told Me You Loved Me,” and “Seeking the Language of Music“). These snippets appear in large part due to a long form piece I am in the early stages of writing that explores how music shapes a person, and how a person, often unknowingly, shapes her Self under the spell of music. It’s about how embedded music is in our memory, how memory sticks because of its attachment to music, and how, we can or do use music to maintain memories we deem integral to our sense of Self.
But what about the memories that don’t stick? The ones we let sink down into the darkened depths of forgetfulness? Either on purpose, because they are too painful? Or accidentally, because we think we no longer have use for them?
I am finding that all it takes is a journey … an intentional journey of remembering … for those memories to ascend on their own from the deep. We have a drawer, I’m realizing, we didn’t know we had access to. It’s our subconscious — And we can open it and take out what we need if and when we need it. Of course, there are times a memory surfaces before we realize its usefulness. And then it’s up to us to make the connection.
One such memory levitated to the surface of my consciousness yesterday, seemingly from nowhere (though I am starting to understand that nothing surfaces from nowhere.) It happened like this:
<A few haunting notes tap tap tap on my brain>
<Paying closer attention now>
Are those train horns?
<Even closer attention>
It’s certainly familiar…
Wait, is it this?
No… no, not quite that. Something similar, though.
Wait a minute.
Oh my God.
<Startled look on my face>
<Heart skips a beat>
<Can’t catch my breath>
I haven’t thought about that in years.
And it all comes flooding back.
The memory — the very visceral experience, actually — that I hadn’t recalled in oh so many years was that of listening over and over again on my Walkman freshman year of college to a love song. In particular, “Love Song for a Vampire,” performed by Annie Lennox off the soundtrack of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film I have never even seen …surprisingly.)
The introduction of the song, indeed, sounds like train horns. And maybe that’s all it took yesterday, as I rode the train from Binyamina to Tel Aviv, for a memory to stir, to shoot up like a bubble waiting to be uncorked. All it took was the sound a horn makes.
I searched for the song on my smartphone, but couldn’t get to it due to a bad connection. So I obsessed a little all day long until I could return to the computer. In the meantime, because I had time to kill on the train, I pondered.
Why? I thought. What purpose does this memory serve now? Why do I need it? How does it apply?
I still don’t know the answer. It’s on the tip of my tongue, just like the song was yesterday, and while I don’t see the purpose yet, I know this memory will be a valuable one in my writing. This piece (this book, this short story, whatever it becomes) — it’s not just about music and memory. It’s not a clinical piece. It’s about me. About my own passage into middle age. About coming to peace with my past in the face of my present and in the prospect of my future. It’s about accepting myself for who I was and who I am now — acknowledging and embracing the differences.
It’s about forgiving — yourself, others, the cruel linear aspect of time.
And I think, in there, lies the key to “Love Song for a Vampire.”
In the meantime, I’m listening…