“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.”Tennessee Williams
One evening last month while the children played and dinner simmered on the stove, I found myself behind the computer screen searching for images of special places from my childhood. A trail of photographs transported me to a place in time I thought I could never visit again. I was surprised to find a picture of the carousel that I would often ride at the mall when my mother would bring me and my sister shopping. I still feel the excitement of waiting in line, wondering whether or not I would get a seat on the second floor.
We went to the mall often. At different points in time, my brother worked at the arcade and my sister worked in a department store. I remember afternoons eating pixie sticks and sheets of candy buttons, and sitting on the bench nestled next to my mother waiting for my sister to finish her shift.
Sometimes we would shop at Stew Leonard’s, which provided for me just about as much fun as I could have grocery shopping. The aisles were decked out with animatronic characters the likes of a lasso wielding Twinkie the Kid and a singing Chiquita Banana. Publix may have free cookies for kids, but do they have cows out back and a plot they transform into a haunted hayride each autumn? I think not!
At some point I realized I could use Google Maps to visit my old house and even walk the same route my mother would so often take me along as a child. She would bring me to visit a large rock near a Pussy Willow tree, where she would collect clippings when the tree was in bloom. I knew it was a long shot to remember the path that we walked, or even that the rock would still be there over twenty years later. However, to my utter delight, I found it! Waves of comfort and yearning washed over me. I was there, and I was not. I could feel the endless cool days of my childhood — the afternoons spent happily with my mother on long, slow walks, with my sister sunning in our yard or climbing monkey bars, or with my father digging in the garden and picking raspberries. The soft, grassy backyard where each fourth of July my brother would set off firecrackers with his friends, and the long front yard he hurried down one evening to tell my parents he thought he caught footage of a UFO on his camcorder. The same front yard my sister remembers me flying down each afternoon when the bus dropped me off after school.
The memories are vivid; I can so easily place myself there. Sometimes, though not often, I will dream about being in our old house again. I rummage through old drawers looking for relics of my childhood, or sit in the small kitchen that was in many ways the heart of our home. These are peaceful dreams, meditative and healing. I can simply exist there.
I opened with a quote by Tennessee Williams regarding memory and the present moment, and ended up writing mainly about the past. It does feel as though I have suddenly arrived at 31 somewhat shocked at how quickly time has passed. I think I must somehow return to that slow way of living from my childhood, and in so doing I may better savor moments as they happen.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”Ferris Bueller