Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fleeting Memory

Memory, my shiny trick gadget of yesteryear tranformed somewhere along the line to a fair weather friend. Any particular moment might recall in Kodachrome, or have gone galavanting the coldest back alleys of inter-galactic space. As a young kid I listened with amazement and concern to adult after adult tell me that they had almost no recollection of life prior to about ten years of age. Would I too, lose my vast collection of detailed memories? How young could anyone recall, for how long? At my 6th birthday party, on the grass under the big oak tree at 1020 B Street in Petaluma, I vowed to recall that moment in 10 years on my 16th birthday - no problem. While waiting for my mom to get ready for a Thanksgiving car ride in 1978 I once again made a vow, this time to remember that rather unremarkable moment for the rest of my days - no problem, the shrubs, the sun, the gate, the red berries on the shrubs, the gravel driveway remain with me. One must select with unconcious care what one commits to permanent memory after awhile, or at least that's my excuse, because I forget hell of moments now, even fun ones. My grandmother has the Alzheimer's and can't remember much anymore, and I can relate, although it's somewhat scary. Kind of like being super-drunk I'd guess. Elliott once told me that many of the homeless drunks in Stockholm can't even remember their own names. That's how Grandmother is, but little memories still glimmer through. Drink To Forget always was one of my favorite MDC songs, about a guy repressing his memories of fighting in Viet Nam with alcohol, available and satisfying. I quit drinking to forget (not that satisfying), but unconventional cat skinning is my middle name.

I've read about folks remembering straight back to the womb, but I have a hard time imagining such. Some of my memories stem from a quite young age, maybe around one year old. Took the boy to the carousel in Berzerkeley's Tilden Park last Sunday. He hadn't been there since he was about 18 months old, a couple years ago, but when we got out he indicated that he remembered by asking if it was Christmas, like it was last time we were there. Then, as our ride on our respective zebra and goat ended, he pointed out the ostrich, the very one he'd ridden almost 2 years previous. I was surprised that he remembered, but of course, why wouldn't he? I did. He had puked all over that ostrich, after all. What else does he remember? For how long? More than I thought, ever more, even things I can not. More good memories and less crappy ones seems a wise path, and a default mindset of "People love me and are trying to help me" rather than the popular "Everyone hates me and is trying to hurt me" fallback.

The tastebuds, the eyesight, the flexibility, the body itself must all go, so why not these fleeting memories? Snazzy while mine to play with though. Vonnegut's idea from Slaughterhouse-Five of viewing each person as a long snake with an old person at the head and an infant at the tail visits me often. The whole life laid out. One could dwell in any part of the snake for as "long" as one wishes. How could the now be less than eternity? No need to fret, or dwell in bitter spaces and odious comparisons.

Bryn once wrote me that, although he liked my writing, he found it a little Astle Greystoner. I had to ask him what he meant. He clarified the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe "Castle Greyskull" reference. Cracks me up, and I admit the odd mystic medieval wording my subconcious continues to gravitate toward. A fine example of a repressed library of memories. What else would we expect from a thousand-year old were-wolf like me, details of a dozen lifetimes coded into the laminations of my vertabrae, releasable only by the tenth Rolfing session, or a skilled sorcerer's touch.

The October Country has arrived once again, and the Bradbury book of short stories by the same name calls my name in a spooky voice from a dusty corner of my bookshelf. Love these foggy mornings, Summer moldering away beneath rocks of time. Brown leafed, gray skyed Autumn accepts every dance, denies no reasonable comfort, no matter the consequence in some far-off Winter, just like I remembered.

1 comment:

snk said...

Your grandmother, despite her Alzheimer's, does rememeber some things from her early years. She talked about being a girl in Canada, of her own mother and of her brothers and sisters. She also remembers you- though not your mom so much. I think she does have some happy childhood thoughts running around her mind.
Maybe the key to keeping the good memories is to run them over as time goes by. Also pain helps make bad memories better. The more painful the experience, the quicker you forget that element. That's what the doula told me, anyway.
It is a good thing to keep repeating the positive messages, if even silently, to yourself. The more often you repeat them, the stronger the "grooves" they make in your mind. Hopefully, the postive ones will make deeper groves than the caverns the darker mantras have carved out.
Also, by audibly repeating pessimistic phrases, you put those negative tapes into everyone else's head. That sly behavior is both selfish and irritating, to those of us who have to actively keep thinking postively to keep ourselves from drowing in that same darkness.