A Time for Looking Back

I’m big on memories. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a product of my age, but then at our family gatherings of three generations, sooner or later, the reminiscing begins. Memory is our personal history book, skewed of course, but still. I’ve spent some time looking back this week.

lookbackNot too long ago, I mentioned that I was re-watching the X-Files series. Last week, I watched an episode about reincarnation. It stirred up a longing to work on my family history again, but subconsciously it stirred up more.

Two days later, just as I woke from a nap, I thought of the first novel I wrote. I finished the first draft fourteen years ago. I revised it, even modified the genre, but I never finished polishing it. Then, after we moved back to California and my life entered a new era, I set it aside.

I didn’t think about that novel much during the next eight years. Then I wrote another novel. And after that one was published, I thought about revising my first novel. I made a half-hearted attempt to convert it to women’s fiction. But ideas for other novels distracted me.

But last week that X-Files episode reminded me that I’d written a dark novel about two reincarnated lovers who find each other again. I opened the file of Forever (working title) and scrolled through, stopping to read several passages.

As I told a friend, the newbie errors made me laugh and some purple prose embarrassed me, but mostly the quality of the writing pleasantly surprised me. So even though I vowed to lighten up this year, I’m now entertaining this dark tale. If I’m happy writing, the result will be the same.

Sometimes looking back leads you forward.

Linda

The Memory Keepers

My mother has dementia. It’s increasing rapidly, now. At first, she suffered only the loss of recent events, which my father kept secret for a while. Not long before he died, he pulled me aside and told me, “Mom forgets a lot.” But it wasn’t until after his death, that I realized how much of her memory loss he’d compensated for.

sandsoftime1In the last year or so, her dementia has progressed to long-term memory loss. Often, she can’t remember what great-grandchildren belong to which grandchild. Or where her grandchildren live. Or what they do for a living. I live across the country from her, so I’m already on the periphery of her life. Someday, I’ll phone and she won’t know who I am.

I’m reluctant to remind her of her youthful escapades she’s relayed many times throughout my life for fear I’ll discover that even those events, grooved most deeply into her memory, are now lost. Sometimes, I think of something I wish I’d asked my father before he died, and now I’ve waited too late to ask my mother many things.

I’ve always had excellent recall of my childhood, which most of the time is a blessing. But I already know I’ve forgotten some things I used to know. That saddens me. Once upon a time, I started a written record of my childhood memories. Too soon, I got distracted. But now it’s imperative that I start again. To record not only memories of my childhood, but memories of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And all that I know of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

There are too many things I don’t want to forget. Eventually, that book of memories may read like fiction to me, but the tales will not be lost. They will remain for those who care to know them. I will be a memory keeper. And I must begin now.

It’s never too late … until it is.

Linda

Do you believe in make believe?

The Christmas Eve I was five, I woke my little sister, took her by the hand, and made her sit at the top of the stairs to watch our parents take our Christmas gifts out of the closet below the staircase. My objective? To prove to her that Santa wasn’t real. Why I don’t know. I don’t think I was a particularly mean sister. I can’t even remember how I knew Santa was make believe.

The Christmas Eve I was five, I woke my little sister, took her by the hand, and made her sit at the top of the stairs to watch our parents take our Christmas gifts out of the closet below the staircase. My objective? To prove to her that Santa wasn’t real. Why I don’t know. I don’t think I was a particularly mean sister. I can’t even remember how I knew Santa was make believe.

My  parents didn’t discover us peeking, and my sister didn’t rat me out, so I went along with the Santa story for years after that night. Why? Because I believe in make believe.

Science can’t explain everything. Religion tries. Children simply believe. As we get older, we lose some of that capacity for hope against all odds, the certainty that, if we wish hard enough, it will be so. Star light, star bright …

I reserve room in my imagination for the magic of fairies, and elves, and unicorns, of ghosts, and Nessie, and Bigfoot. As a fiction writer, I think that’s only fair. When I offer you my writing, I ask you to enter a world of imaginary people, in imaginary places, doing imaginary things. I ask you to believe in my make believe.

And I’ll do my best to write it well, so no big sister will whisper in your ear and destroy the illusion.


Endnote: If you read this post and took any comment as a slight to your religious beliefs, please know that I had no such intent.

No matter what your age, it’s back to school time!

Where I live, the school year has just started. My children are grown, so I’m a bit removed from that event nowadays, but still it stirs the memory pot. During my school days the year started after Labor Day, so the real memory kickoff will come a couple of weeks from now, on the first morning with just the right slant of light and crispness to the air. Soon after, the leaves will turn and begin to fall.

Where I live, the school year has just started. My children are grown, so I’m a bit removed from that event nowadays, but still it stirs the memory pot. During my school days the year started after Labor Day, so the real memory kickoff will come a couple of weeks from now, on the first morning with just the right slant of light and crispness to the air. Soon after, the leaves will turn and begin to fall.

There’s nothing stronger than the scent of autumn leaves crushed underfoot to take me back to the Octobers of my youth. I’m instantly transported back, scuffing my shoes through the red, gold, and brown strewn across the sidewalks on my way home from school. It’s always a sunny afternoon and I take my time, as though I’m trying to hold on to every ray before the gray days of winter set in.

Scientists say scent is the strongest link to memory, and I believe it. With one whiff of a crayon box, I’m six-years-old again. I’m wielding a fat orange crayon and trying my best to stay insides the lines of the duck’s beak. It’s lunchtime, Friday, and with the odor of fish sandwiches drifting from the cafeteria, we line up, but first stop is the restroom, where I’m greeted with the combined smells of castile soap and wet brown paper towels. Ah, sweet memories.

I associate more than smells with school, of course. The faint peppermint taste of white paste, the murmur of students shuffling though polished hallways, and the tap, scratch, and squeak of chalk on the blackboard. Speaking of blackboards—the old-fashioned slate kind—does anyone else remember the man who came around to refresh the lines? Do you remember the paint smelling like bananas? I know. I’m old, but every year around this time, it’s easy to recall the child again.

Do you have a fond school memory to share?

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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