much of my life has been spent as a memory facilitator; this is true not only professionally, but also personally. people seek out my services; i am good at pulling and prodding, nudging and cajoling, digging and gouging, murmuring encouragement when their memory fails them and delighting in their recovery of what they felt they had lost. sometimes i get paid for this and other times the payment is nothing more than friendship (as rich a payment as you could want.)
to keep my ability honed and at the ready, i practice on myself in a “physician heal thyself” kind-of-way, but success can prove elusive even for someone with the training and experience that you might imagine i possess. you see, i am my toughest client, my most unforgiving of friends.
faced with a silver wristwatch with its grosgrain strap, a pewter compass, its bow a pin, and a dried funeral carnation that had once been red and that has now, over the last 29 years, left little crunchy bits of itself in the bottom of a german marquetry pear wood jewelry box, i freeze up, inexplicably–at least to me–they have lost their meaning; the spark has gotten wet and when rubbed against time no longer ignites a fire of recall. i’m not saying i don’t know the who, what, why, when and how of them, i’m just telling you that they are no longer evocative of those who wore them. the carnation, even though it came from a sad, angry day (dudgeon came to mind, but i thought better of it regardless of its accuracy), holds little power over me now.
you could look at them and think they are madeleines — and in some ways they are objects that remind me of certain times — and yet they lack that proustian preciousness, or the ability to ignite, to provide pages and pages of memories. yet they are three things that i cannot, nor would not, ever let slip away from me; my need to belong to a family, to be anchored in some way to the past, the past of other people’s lives, is too important, too ingrained in my being to allow their loss.
hidden as they are in the dark tomb of the wood box with layers of geologic time obscuring them until i exhume one or the other, brush them off and share them with you, arranged as the day’s finds at this particular archeological dig (in some forgotten land.) and faint though it may be, they still have the last vestiges of love emanating from them (a geiger counter clicking faster as it nears them.) the frayed edges, the tarnish, the delicate dryness (pages in an old library) are time stopped and considered, weighed and judged and that is enough for me.