How many moments in your life can you recall a time you were doing practically nothing, when a sharp sense of “I need to remember this” came over you? Perhaps you were ten. You could have been younger. Some feeling washed over you that indicated time was passing, that the beautiful, sun-dappled sidewalk you were moseying along, the spring breeze, so lovely, would be different or gone in 10 years. That the moment was pretty perfect. You needed to somehow capture it; to remember it exactly as it was that day for your older self later, in case she forgets.
There was a large double swing at my College that hung from an enormous tree on front campus. Swinging with my best friend one pristine autumn day my freshman year, I was free and smart and at peace with my new-found (though sheltered) independence, knowing I’d probably never be so completely un-encumbered and on the cusp of infinite possibility again. “Remember this.” I thought, “You’ll need to remember this one day.”
Paddling shirtless in the upper Ontario wilderness a couple years later: “Do not forget you were this strong, this connected to water and sky.”
Pregnant after pregnancy losses, looking out at the pines from a back porch Carolina rocking chair when it looked like the baby inside me would be born soon: “This is what you’ve wanted, don’t forget what life growing inside you feels like, your profound terror, this absolute certainty”.
The one or two or maybe few days of any given year that assure you that you are a living witness –not just to an event or in some cases non-event, but to the feeling you want to remember about it: the astonishment of holding the feet of your dying friend, her struggle, her release, your sense of calm in letting her go. Or of observing the kindness of the busy fresh produce guy, patiently helping the non-english-speaking grandma at Kroger sort out one pepper over another, the way it made you cry with gratitude for a simple kindness in a crappy world. The couple in a long embrace at a corner, the man with his dog, asleep under a blooming redbud in the park.
My girl self, communing with the 18-year- old who left home, ”Don’t forget that home”, she said. “The people who lived there. The person you were”. The 20 -something me who spoke to the young Mother me, overwhelmed by her cluelessness, her loss of self. “You knew yourself under stars alone in the wilderness, you’ll know yourself here.” The younger mother I can barely remember, (so much has happened in the past two decades), told me recently that mothering was the best work of my life. And I think she’s right. And the 10 year old me, reminding us all again, it’s right to remember as you go, so you can tell yourself later how it was and what you know because of it.
I’ve been accused of being overly nostalgic. Maybe, but I think I’ve simply had a knack for keeping track and keeping all the girls and women I’ve been in my life in touch with one another.
Today the dogwood blooms in the backyard where my daughters once climbed trees and made forts. One dog, three rabbits, 2 rats, 2 hamsters, and the ashes of 2 other dogs are buried here. As I moved dirt, and cleared a new path through an overgrown section I imagine making into some kind of meditation garden, I thought “I need to remember how great I felt today, whole and happy in my slightly- aching body, losing track of time while clearing and making things. At 57, I still like finding the shape of something new in the familiar, changing ground under my feet”.
I hope we’ll all be together in another 10 years. All the pieces of me remembering together, so none of us forgets.
BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse