Monday, October 1, 2007

past and future falls

Walking to work, I occasionally see things that make me wish I had my camera so I could share images with you. Still, I never seem to go the next step and remember to pack it. So today when I spotted these chestnuts all over the ground, I scooped a few handfuls into my backpack and took them home with me. I love everything about them -- the sharp green of the fleshy coating, the spiky exterior, and the spit-polish shine of the chestnut itself. Before today, I hadn't experienced the drama of their fall from tree to ground. In the wind, one after another was knocked free, bouncing to the ground, splitting open instantly to release its burnished seed. One even landed on my head!

Regularly, in the fall, I catch myself wanting to tell someone how my dad would grin at the sight of chestnuts and remember, for us, his boyhood back in Yorkshire when he and his schoolmates would play "conkers" -- tying the chestnuts on a string and pitting them against each other. We'd try to imagine this, as kids, but I can't remember ever going so far as to try attaching nut to string ourselves, not in the 1950s and 60s when there were more sophisticated options for play. Even harder to imagine today's kids having any patience for such an elemental game.

It's not so much the game of conkers, my dad's boyhood, that fascinates me about the chestnuts when I see them now, but rather the way memory works. As I progress through the years in an ostensibly linear fashion, time often feels more circular re-positing, depositing me right back in my 10-year old's imagination, in my 30-year old maternal voice pointing out to my children the delights of the chestnut, in my 40-year old reminiscences of my father, of piling up leaves in Moody Park with my brothers and sisters, and now, some years past 50, gathering all those memories onward. There's something very precious about that layering, and something isolating as well -- sometimes I want those people near who can remember some of what I remember, even if they may never remember it quite the same way, nor from the same angle.

I intuit something of my future relationship mediating between my memories and those around me -- I remember my dad, in his last months, turning inward with a recognition that some memories, some knowledges, couldn't be shared. I feel that resignation myself sometimes, but suspect that just as often, those close to me might complain that I continue sharing memories that have little relevance to them! Balancing between these two impulses, between finding it too much effort to describe the past and too much insisting on telling people about it, will probably be one of the challenges of my next few decades. What about you? How important do you see that role of remembering the past for those around you, perhaps those of a more recent generation? And what triggers for memory do you find around you this fall?

By the way, only 2 more days to let me know if you'd like me to keep up My Shoes Wednesday -- see the poll on the right, thanks!

7 comments:

  1. As I have worked so much with American Postmodernism, and, currently, am finishing up Light In August (Faulkner) with my Modern Novel class, memory is very much on my mind. But your post brings to me a surprising awareness: that memory has functioned more as either an abstract concept or a theme in books than it has worked as something I might myself share.... My husband and I have chosen not to have children, and thus the notion of passing things on has not really been a part of my way of being in the world. Suddenly, I find myself surprised into noticing the private aspect of my own memories, as if I am already somehow turned inward, and I wonder what the implications of that particular ethos might be.

    A very thought-provoking post!

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  2. as i was coming in from my run last night the sound of fireworks was in the air reminding me that fall is here with halloween just around the corner. i foung your thoughts on memories intriguing; however, like puttermeister, being childless, i selfishly hoard my memories and share them stingily and only when i know they are either shared or will be truly appreciated.

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  3. So interesting that both puttermeister and anonymous (is that you, rachel?) cited childlessness as making a difference in their relationship to memory-sharing. As I answered puttermeister in an e-mail, I hadn't thought about my role as a mom as making the difference in the way I mediate the private/public sides of my memories, and yet that's obviously an important factor. I'd like to think more about that in a future post. Meanwhile, though, I'm not sure I'd agree with you, anonymous, that you're being either selfish or stingy in hanging onto your memories--how does that biblical quote go about casting not your pearls before swine?!

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  4. Memories are strange, aren't they? I see my mom doing stuff with my kids that reminds me of her mother. Then I try to tell my daughter all about her great grandmother, and try to convey that sense of toughness combined with great love that she gave us all.

    Mater, I had you pegged as a lit person even before I went back on your older posts and you shared your class assignment on Morrison. You absoutely have that academic ability to fill the space requirements! But you do it well. I hope to be able to write more like this when I've got the house back to myself and I can pull my head out of my communications job, which makes me do everything in tiny bites.

    Daughter is up.

    Now one of the twins is, too.

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  5. Dana, thanks for the comment, especially since I can see it consumed some of those precious moments moms steal for themselves while kids sleep. 3 including twins, eh? you're very busy! even beyond your communications job, your life must take place in tiny bites, if I remember correctly!

    I note your repetition (Yes, I'm a litcrit by training!!) of the word "try" when you speak of passing memories along, and I think that's important -- there's always a sense of tension, I think, in the impossibility, at some level, of conveying memories as clearly as we'd like to. I thank you for that reminder -- I really do want to pull all these comments together to help me think further my thoughts on remembering.

    And I'm chuckling at your characterization of my being able to "fill the space requirements"!! I'm relieved that you added that I do it well. I do go on and on, sometimes, I know. Not sure that's an academic trait or just my personality, but I'm so pleased with this forum, this genre, which is letting me stretch my writing muscle way beyond the boundaries of academe. There you go -- space requirements filled and then some!!

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  6. Not that I mind reading long posts! I just often don't have the time for it, and can only digest the tiny bites Pseu, Manolo, and Winona feed us. I guess I'm looking for a giggle, too. But I love your garden, island, knitting and shoes, even when they all make me sigh with envy from my dried out garden in the Midwest where I buy sweaters and zappos.com shoes.

    From an English lit major turned PR person turned grant writer (wait-- those last 2 are the same), I thank you for the chance to get back to my roots. I'm even rediscovering poetry (short ones) as something I can read in a small bite, then again, as a way of injecting serious lit in concentrated shots.

    Cheers

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  7. Hey Dana, we're envious of zappos up here -- not available to us.
    glad you make time to read me from time to time, despite the long posts

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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