Try to remember …

Memory, like many things, is often taken for granted—until it’s lost. My mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She realizes it, but most of the time pretends it’s not happening. “Everyone forgets things,” she’ll say, but I can tell by her voice she knows what she’s forgotten is more serious than where she set her purse or what she walked into the kitchen for.

I fear losing my memory—or precisely, losing my memories. The other day, someone mentioned an event I felt I should have remembered, and it shook me a bit that I didn’t. I thought of many wonderful events in my life I would hate to forget, but someday due to Alzheimer’s or ordinary senility, I will begin to lose those memories. My recent loss of valued Christmas ornaments and decorations reinforced my fear. Yes, I still have the memories association with each item—but for how long?

Sad to say, I’m not a writer who kept journals all her life. I wish someone had taught me about journaling when I was young. I would have had my life in written form. Ah-h, if wishes were horses … Still, it’s not too late. I could record all the precious memories I’ve retained. I’m a writer; I could do that.

New plan: whenever something from my past comes to mind, I’ll write it down. I will have my memory in written form. A memoir in its purest form. And if, when I’m ninety, I forget these things happened to me, they should still be good reading.

The Mojave Desert at 75mph

 

Note: I included this photo for those of you who didn’t see my road photos and witty repartee on my Facebook page. (Just kidding, it was the first time I tried updating my status from my iPhone, so I was too befuddled to be witty. At least that’s my excuse.)


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Summer Sleuths

The summer I was ten, my best friend Terry and I read the collection of Nancy Drew books her parents had bought her. Naturally, we then fancied ourselves girl detectives and were ever vigilant in our quest for a mystery to solve. On the corner, at the far end of my street, was a massive hedgerow along the length of the property. In its midst, we discovered a hollow place, big enough for the two of us to hide in and observe the strange goings on in the neighborhood.

On any given day, we might see a suspicious white-haired woman (or was she?) pulling home her foldaway shopping cart full of groceries (or were they?) We also spied an alarming number of boys on bikes circling the block, obviously up to something. We easily decoded snatches of clandestine conversation as pedestrians passed us unaware. No mystery was too small or too big for us to handle.

Then one day, we hit the jackpot. After our usual bologna sandwich and Kool-aid lunch, we hurried to our lair. I crawled in first, while Terry stood lookout. Even before I reached our spot, my nose reacted. By the time Terry reached my heels, I was gagging.

“Gross,” she said, “what’s that stink?”

With my heart pounding, I raised a hand and pointed. “Bones,” I said.

We crawled backwards at a pace you wouldn’t believe possible and quickly decided my dad was the go to guy … not for any reason other than it was faster to run to my house than hers. We arrived breathless, stammering out the news that we’d found a dead body … or at least a piece of one and begging him to come see. And right NOW! He gave us a look that said he was 99% sure we had not found a body and issued a warning this better not be a joke.  With our assurance of the severity of the situation, we set off for the scene of the crime. Walking. Slowly.

Our stroll gave me time to think. I scripted what I would say when they interviewed us for the six o’clock news. And then it hit me! Terry and I would be on screen together. Think. Okay, yes, I would do the talking, but make her stand mostly in front of me, closer to the camera, that way she would look more my size than her too cute, petite self. But I would definitely do the talking. Then, my heart sank. I saw myself, frozen like a popsicle and not able to squeak above a whisper when we’d performed our skit for the school talent show.  Girl detective or not, I’d end up looking like a big stupid oaf on TV.

Still … we were going to be famous!

My father didn’t bother crawling into the hollow, he just strong-armed the shrubbery aside and peered in. For an eternity—or at least thirty seconds—he froze. Then he knelt and thrust a hand forward. When he stood and turned toward us, he held forth a massive bone with putrid flesh attached. Saucer-eyed, Terry and I recoiled.

“This,” he said, “is a cow femur. A soup bone, left here by a dog.” He flung it back toward the hedge and stomped off toward home.

Terry and I stood side by side, watching his retreat. “Wanna go to my house and make fudge?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. We’d just witnessed the death of our sleuthing career. Why not drown our sorrows in sugar?

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Untying the knots

“There are stories inside of me, hardened into tight little knots. Call them anything: Sanskrit samskaras, disturbances in the field, sediment scraped from the depths. They are at the core of all the other stories that are easier to tell.”

Photo: Author: Lorin Klaris; Book: Len Lagrua

Though I don’t know why, it’s usually Spring that renews my spiritual quest, so it’s fitting that I am reading a book by Dani Shapiro titled Devotion: A Memoir. This book will lead me into my annual journey. As I prefer to savor this one, I’ve read only up to page 35, yet this beautifully written work has brought me to tears more than once.

I’ve not cried because of what she wrote so much as for the memories her words evoke. In the cover blurbs, her book is described as “wry” and “funny” so it’s not meant to depress, though I doubt anyone could read it and not find it’s relation to events of their own life.

I applaud Shapiro’s courage, her honesty, in writing such a memoir and appreciate writers like her who share their stories to make me feel as though she has told some of my own for me. I could not—nor, I suspect, will I ever be able to—do that. At this point, I cannot separate my story from those of others in my life, and I don’t feel I have the right to tell anyone else’s story. The best I can do is write fiction, and hope that bits of the “tight little knots” inside me work themselves loose.

I also have to thank Cynthia Newberry Martin whose beautiful post on this book made me want to read it, when you go there be sure to click to watch Dani’s book trailer.

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