“I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
Memory is a fickle thing. It used to be my constant companion. People often asked me for clarification when anything involved a shared memory because they knew I would know what had really happened. It was a gift I guess I took for granted, that I lorded over others like Excalibur newly freed from the stone.
But unbeknownst to me while I was in the middle of that blessed time, memory was also fickle. I imagine it had begun curving away from me, its ends a bit frayed by time, without my even recognizing the shift. As time went on I started to lose fragments of my massive memory. I used to joke about it, back then.
“I guess that memory had to leave to make room for this one, right now,” I would tell people, but inside my brain this niggling doubt began inching its way in. I felt like Clark Kent with no phone booth, but I felt I would regain everything in due time, that everything would fall back into place.
It hasn’t. Don’t get me wrong. My memory is still relatively good. I don’t often forget names or events, but it’s gotten a bit like Swiss cheese at times. A bit holey. The brain is a magnificent creation, so even in those times, when I don’t quite know everything that happened, when the memory is a big foggy, my brain fills in the holes, clarifies things.
Of course, that means building blocks of memory aren’t very solid anymore. I’m not always sure where the memory ends and the filling in of details that aren’t quite accurate begins. It’s like my house that was so solid has begun to crack at the foundation, which is scary for someone who has lived in the house so long, who just wants to shore up the base and soldier on.
But someone once told me we can’t go back, only forward. Which, to me, means that I have to make my peace with the incomplete memories. They aren’t the only ones that remain, after all. I have many that are still quite whole, that I can latch onto and hope to dear god they don’t begin missing pieces too. I’ve begun writing them down, one by one, so that even if I lose them they still remain. Somewhere. Somehow.
I’m starting with the photographs, the ones my mother gave me when I requested them, the ones that show my childhood in ways I sometimes recall and sometimes I forget. That’s the great thing about a photograph. It can reveal things we’ve forgotten, things in the background that weren’t whole until seeing it. I’m going through each one and writing everything I remember about that moment in time, then moving to the next moment.
I’m just worried that at some point I’ll see a picture taken last week and I won’t have the clarity I should, of it, or of anything. But we can’t go back, only forward, so I’ll worry about it if or when it comes. For now, I’ll grab hold of my fickle companion and dance until the night is no longer young. Then we’ll keep on dancing.