She used to ask me in her later years,
“Why do you think I’m remembering that …
after all this time?”
In protest, she was, perplexed and pained.
She had no idea how “just don’t think about that”
would one day become a memory stack,
a backlog, an archive of film clips
waiting to be spliced back into place.
She had no idea her memories would
plague and prod,
search for settle and sense.
How they’d resurface events stinging with once silenced feelings,
aching for resolve, begging to rest in –
neither of us knew
that’s what memories did.
Memories wield power, no doubt.
A dreaded memory can quicken an unexpected clench,
replaying a temporary death long buried,
but, like Jack’s box, with a simple turn
the scene pops out. The heart hesitates
yanked back into an unwelcome yesterday.
There are memories overstuffed with joy,
a swollen heart delivers cherished tears.
Memories caught in precious snapshots
carefully fixed on raw-edged, black pages
with golden corners.
Others complicated by pain
and shame, and regret, and loss
locked in a cabinet drawer,
along with mementos of loves fought for
There are memories longing to be free,
aired out – flapping in the breeze.
Memories appreciated anew as life’s teachers,
forging needed perspective, acting as healers.
Confusing childhood memories, where you become Bambi.
ones where you think, “that can’t be.”
There are chuckle-producing memories,
and reminiscence still stoking the fires of intimacy.
And in time, there will be fuzzy memories, fading memories,
storylines falling away – a memory failing.
There were memories
once held secure with cellophane tape
now yellowed and useless,
sloughed into a crevice,
leaving only a faint glue-shadow in its place.
When the search for missing memories consumed her waking,
when unrelated pieces of life’s disintegrating film reel
were all that was left to pick up off the floor, she found solace with
unseen visitors who arrived from the ceiling’s edge
through a veil familiar to those nearest death.
And with their appearance came borrowed memories
on fresh celluloid, allowing life’s cinema to roll again
with invented scenes, enduring dreams, imaginary actors.
Escapades she recited as her own –
recounted to her child now grown,
someone she welcomed
as a kind interested stranger.
My grandmother and two aunts died
separated from their memories.
Like Mom, their hearts’ last beats
pumped into gasping bodies with vacant eyes.
I stow the car key, with my ear buds, a pack of gum
in the same place, on the wicker mat
next to the cookie jar,
a 1940’s yellow Dutch-girl cookie jar,
the one that survived all my childhood cookie sneaking,
and remained faithful on Mom’s kitchen counter after Dad died,
the one she carefully packed to move from Detroit to Seattle,
the same Dutch-girl that holds cookies for my grandchildren.
There, next to the ear buds and the gum, I can always find the key.
A talisman act to stave off any hint that my memories
may one day dwindle and
Memories imprint the human heart
with much needed faith that tomorrow will arrive as promised.
Braiding together you, me and our stories through time,
producing a unique documentary
commemorating purpose and personhood.
Lucky enough, it’s my turn to welcome life’s reruns,
to revisit memories nudging toward settle and sense.
I’ve always known I had her smarts –
only time will reveal if I got her brain.
For now, with the time left,
I entwine memories – however painful – with love,
like salve softening the brittle edges of aging,
a remedy relieving the lingering harshness
from a life that wasn’t always kind.
Each gentle wrap adds strength
to a perfectly knotted sapphire strand,
dangling from life’s corner,
there to grasp, to roll between my fingers,
to soothe, to
wear like a prayer
memories are no more.