Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Memories Made...Memories Lost

The Country Wagon - Maine, NY

This is a picture of the Country Wagon.  A produce market and gift shop in the upstate New York town of Maine, and a place that holds many beloved childhood memories for me.  My home town, and many surrounding, recently experienced catastrophic flooding as a result of tropical storm Lee, and is vastly under water.  As I flip through these pictures, I can’t help but be overcome with sadness and nostalgia for my somewhat of a fairy-tale childhood.  Right out of a chapter of Anne of Green Gables, the Country Wagon provided many summer and fall family excursions to pick peas, strawberries, apples or the perfectly shaped pumpkin on a crisp and colorful October afternoon. 
Although my family lost the entire contents of their basements filled with 5 and 6 feet of water, it is nothing in contrast to the devastation people have experienced, as entire homes have literally floated away leaving them with nothing.  But among those contents was a 30 year collection of photo albums and video tapes that my late Father painstakingly created of every event throughout our childhood and early adult years.  It has left me questioning what it means to truly create memories. 
We all have different ways of holding onto our most cherished things and loved ones.  My Father clung to his video camera at every function and spent hours afterward re-watching and editing for future posterity.  I have very vivid memories of him sitting on the couch and watching a performance of my sisters' and me over and over, with an expression that I understand now to have been pure and tremendous pride.  As has often happened since the birth of my children, I am revisiting much of his behaviors and habits as I recognize them so clearly in myself.   Now, through a parent’s eye, I understand them on a different level.  I too, seem to be quite obsessed with creating digital memories.  In fact, one of the many things adding to the constant feeling of “catch up”, is the fact that I have yet to complete photo books 2009 and 2010. They have been on a “to do” list every day for over a year.  Now, as hundreds of VHS video tapes lay on the grass, in my mother’s futile attempt to preserve them, I am left to wonder what we do this for.  What is this magical time in the future for which we are waiting to revisit these memories? And, does it in fact keep us quite distant from experiencing our lives fully right now? 
I say this with the acceptance that I will continue to carry around my flip video camera and create movies of my children.  I get as much joy out of making and sharing them as I understand my Father did.  At the time, I remember being frustrated that his camera was a constant appendage and wishing he could just simply “be” at the event and enjoy it.  So, while I can appreciate now his need to savour these moments, I wonder if my children have the same sense that I am not always “present” and with them.  However, perhaps on some level it is because of the “fog” and chaos I’m feeling so frequently, that I feel the need to capture so many moments, for fear that I am not quiet and centered enough to remember them.   Either way, as I think about the untimely death of my Father and wonder how much he actually got to enjoy his masterpieces, I feel that maybe the practice simply calls for more awareness.
 We live in a world that is rapidly becoming completely technological.  Every phone and gadget has a camera and these snapshots and videos can be shared instantly across cyberspace.  “Hold still!  Let me grab my phone! I’ve got to send this to Nana!”  Instead of “Wow!  You guys look so silly and adorable right now.  Can I join you as you make each other giggle with funny faces?”  While I am so thankful to be able to share these tender and funny moments with my family, whom all live 3000 miles away, I might try to practice more mindfulness throughout the day and absorb some of these treasured “snapshots” with a deep breath and sigh of gratitude just for myself.      

If you would like to contribute to the Flood Relief efforts,  please click on this link
Thank you


Anonymous said...

"What is this magical time in the future for which we are waiting to revisit these memories? And, does it in fact keep us quite distant from experiencing our lives fully right now?"

This is a great entry and extremely well-written. Living in the moment is one of those things that so many of us don't know exactly how to do. I saw a great sunset one time as I came over a hill in the Ithaca area. I wanted to stop and pick up my camera and then I decided to take a snapshot with my mind because I knew that no one would ever truly relive that moment from my photo of it. Perhaps a description of it from my vivid memory would do it more justice? But of course, I would've had to have been there completely to have truly carved it deeply into my mind in order to make my description worthy of its beauty. Yes- Dad always video taped everything. I couldn't understand how he could rewatch them after he had just "done the day" as I would say. He would say, "Kass. Want to see the party?"..."uh...No thanks Dad. I just finished it."...Now- Interestingly, again though I can't understand it from a parent's perspective, I have a feeling that I just figured out what he was doing. Is it possible that during those parties with his "always the life of the party- always on personality", he was just going through the motions because everyone was there expecting him to make them laugh all the time and this video camera, that was attached to his head, was protecting him from missing these moments himself? He spent the evenings actually allowing himself to feel them when he could attach some small piece of who his public self didn't allow him to be? Perhaps his public persona was a little "fog" of his own as he chased 5 kids and entertained the rest of the world looking as though it was the easiest thing in the world to do. "Father fog" sat, watched videos, wrote books, mass produced art, and created, created, created in order to have that part of him that could easily get lost behind the scenes of "the ride to the dance", "the comedian", "the father of 5"..."the cook who just happened to drop grapenuts into everything he made..."

You always say you have no memories...and yet I believe I read the words "I have vivid memories of him..." in your above passage. Perhaps he isn't quite as far away as you might think sometimes. I'd look for him in you more often...Like father, like daughter...

Heather said...

Well said, both of you. We go through this life so quickly that we're afraid we are going to miss something, a moment, many moments so we work hard to capture them. Yes, Em, I do think sometimes we are working so hard to capture them that we do miss some of the most charming moments but the beauty is, we can go back and revisit them. We just have to make the time. We have to set the priority. Your dad was so brilliant at that. He was one of a kind and such a blessing. Now, with that said-what was in him is in you, and each of your sisters. I see it all the time. I see it in your kids. He was so proud of all of you. He still is-even more so now. I love you.