On Memory

I find myself trying to excavate memories, chipping around the edges of what I do remember, looking for something else that may be poking out and within reach.

It’s tricky. I worry about damaging what little I do remember. I worry even more that I’ll find something I don’t particularly want. Here there be monsters, I think; I remember just enough to know this is true.

For the first  ten years of my life I have what’s probably less than a years worth of memories. And I’m using “memory” loosely — it doesn’t include many long  detailed ones. Most are snippets, a fast snatch pulled from the ether. Here’s an example: Virginia,  Christmas time, sometime before I was 7 – an impression of a big, mid-century shopping center sign, and a few bars of Judy Collins singing “Both Sides Now.” That blink of an eye somehow ties in with my favorite  Christmas ornaments, so I put both things together and assume it’s a memory of a shopping trip.

Mid-century fabulous

Mid-century fabulous, even in the new Millenia

It was years before I realized it wasn’t like that for everyone. I can’t say I’ve ever been really angry about it — from the first realization that I was memory deficient I understood there was likely a very compelling reason for it.

I’ve always been of the mind that I’m doing just fine without those years of memories, so why fuck around and take a chance on falling into a pit full of broken glass?

Yet here I sit, on the other side of a big ass span of years (and attending fully functional memories), wondering if there’s a way to maybe pick out a birthday or a Christmas.

I sometimes think it would be nice to remember what it was like to wake up on Christmas morning. I assume I was excited, that there was a sense of magic or good old-fashioned present greed. What was it like to come down the hall and see the presents under the tree? What was it like to unwrap them?

I want to know, about Christmas and the first day of school and birthday parties and vacations. I want to be able to look at a photograph and put a three-dimensional memory with it. Pictures of those first ten years are like looking at pictures from a magazine. The only reason I know they’re real is I recognize the people in them.

You know, for all the years I’ve spent thinking about these things, here’s something I’m just now putting together, an angle that I’ve never really thought of before.

The memories I most want to recapture are all memories that most likely happened inside my house. The memories I do have? Are almost exclusively from school or Granny’s house, or public locations.

Safe places, in other words.

And doesn’t that tell me all I need to know about trying archaeology?

Right now I can believe I was once excited and awed, holding hands with my sister as we crept down the hall to see the presents left for us. I can believe that even living with a monster in the dungeon I was able to find moments of magic.

I need to let the memories stay buried with his bones. I’m not missing anything I really need.