not a sad story & wonder of memory


Saturday, I tumbled around before yoga – diving into the first Wildwood book, opening the curtains and drinking the coffee. It was glorious. The sun refracted and played through the prisms and glass bits I keep in my east-facing bedroom window.

The coffee was good. I was at home with my thoughts.

Eventually and after a few snow-scaped adventures with Katie, I returned home to rid myself and my home of cluttering papers, unneeded bits and things that other people might enjoy using. No hiding place was sacred. And so I moved lamps, plants and books to fill the bags to shred, donate, recycle and punt.

The old wooden box that I’d picked up in the yard sale off of Georgia Southern’s Sweetheart Circle stopped me as it always does. I’d saved this collection of history for nearly last because I know to open this box is a mixture of Pandora’s folly and the sweetest of memory. And so it was Saturday – a bittersweet Pandora’s box.

In it are my little white toddler shoes, Madi’s jingle-belled dance slipper, Kenan’s pins from the time his shoulder was crunched on the playground, love notes from the kids, a clay ball I made while sitting in three-day solo beneath the Eagle’s Nest in 1985, friends’ wedding announcement when a Lousch played a part, Egg Roll, the vintage toy tiger; a lost tooth, lock of hair and so much more. Treasures.

With each treasure came memories.
With each memory came the realization of how far we’ve come;
how much we’ve grown.
Some of what we have lost.

Was it my imagination or does the dress still smell of tiny twirling Magpie? Or the birdseed from our wedding so long ago.

It is amazing — a wonder even — that I can still recall in detail the winter’s day in 1986 when we picked up the matchsticks in the Brücken Cafe in Ulm and yet I forget where I dropped my keys a moment ago.

I look back and with all of the losses — my brother, Pat; a marriage promise, certainty of belief, safety and idealism and innocence — so much has been gained since I first began collecting the bits.

Magpie and Kenan. Friends who are family and family who are friends (a running theme here). A stronger sense of place and community. The Konza Prairie. A returning of my body to myself after the events no one wishes to discuss – especially me.

Schussing down slopes nearby and far away. Train rides and downward dogging with the yogis in Colorado as a moose or elk lumbers by. Windsurfing on Lake Washington. A loving friendship with my sister, Mimi. Books read. Instagram.

Stories of purpose and rediscovery.
Kisses on the mountain peak and races run.
Flying over my handlebars at the transition of the first tri I ran…and then running into T1 with my bike on my shoulder – undaunted and laughing.

The way the country pulled together after that crystal clear September day.
Kindnesses of strangers.
Hope renewed again and again.
A changed mind (I’m looking at you, yoga.)
Sleeping under stars.

A warm hand covering mine. Coffee steaming up the mountain morning.

And this thought returned as tears rolled onto my lap and puddled there:

“I know these will all be stories some day, and our pictures will become old photographs. We all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now, these moments are not stories. This is happening. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song, and that drive with the people who you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”
Charlie, Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

For another take on this soliloquy, check out this video clip from the Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

What to do with all of this wonder? These memories?

Voices not heard in too many years and smells that originate in memory rather than present reality.

As I write, I wonder at how we’d even consider that memory is only visceral and not physical. I can feel, hear, smell and taste so much sweetness — bittersweetness — even today as I scribe this over lunch while at work.

I can feel that hand over mine and those little hands in each of mine as if they are here and we are crossing some summer street.

My grandmother’s vegetable soup and the sunny smell of the blackberry bushes that lined her backyard fence.

It is a wonder.
And it is no longer a sad story.

It is a life, a determined celebration.

David Bowie thinks we can be heroes.

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