‘Every one of us is losing something precious to us,’ he says after the phone stops ringing. ‘Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the works of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.’
–Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
Memories are powerful. They help us cope with loss and tragedy. They give us new perspectives as we dwell on old ones. They bring us comfort when we’re at the lowest of our lows. But they can also overwhelm us and drown us in emotions we aren’t prepared to feel yet.
Memories are beautiful. Memories are unkind. Memories are human.
I was 3 years old, playing on the sidewalk outside my sister’s pre-school. My mom was standing a few yards away talking to the other parents. And I was watching the roly-poly bugs curl and uncurl on the concrete as my fingers chased them around.
I was 6 years old, sitting quietly at my desk, observing the new girl looking nervous in her mom and dad’s shadow. The teacher ushered her over and offered her the seat next to mine because we were both wearing shirts of the same green hue.
I was 8 years old, visiting my grandparents for a week over the summer. My grandmother packed my sister and me into her old Cadillac and we drove into town, listening to the country music station, headed for the local pharmacy. She would always treat to a milkshake at the lunch counter there, and I thought I was so clever for mixing the peanut butter and fudge flavors into the most delicious combination.
I was 19 years old, sitting in the cab of my grandfather’s truck. His voice kind. His face unsure. His words telling me my dad was gone.
. . .
I am completely made of memories. I am stitched together from love, joy, regret, and hope. I am a quilt of the things I have done, the things I am doing, and the things I will do. Memories become shiny with sentiment and rosy with the passing of time. Memories are raw with emotions and dusty with neglect.
Each memory is a flower. And together, they make up a garden through which I can walk forever.