Tag Archives: memory

Week 4: Reminder

It is late at night on the day I am supposed to post the new theme.  I had played with a few themes over the last week, and decided on this one this morning.  The word reminder is not good enough at describing exactly what made me think of this theme, but it will do.  And I suppose it will keep options open, which is always a good thing.

I feel like there must be a German word for what I am thinking of.  Something specific, with at least twenty letters in it.

The reminders I was thinking of were of the more fleeting kind.  The kinds that cause a spark or twinge.  Here are some examples…

  • When, as you are dreaming, you realize that you have the most brilliant idea possible and concentrate on soaking up every last detail, but then when you wake up you can almost hear it spilling out of your ears as you scramble to find the pen that rolled under the bed after you knocked it off the nightstand in your sleep. You are devastated.  And then, either three hours or three weeks later, someone says a word on the radio and you at least have pieces of the dream back.  And okay, maybe now that you’re thinking about it while awake, it’s not as brilliant an idea.
  • When the opening note of a song can make you travel through time to one very specific and probably uneventful day that you wouldn’t have had cause to remember otherwise.
  • When maybe you’ve had too much to drink, or were too tired to go out but you went out anyway, and weeks later you find pictures on your phone of events you thought you had dreamt.  And suddenly you remember the next thing that happened, and the next, and you either grimace or sigh.
  • When you write a note to yourself and lose it, then find it later and realize that even that is not enough to make you remember why you did that.  Why did I write “Smart Alec” in the middle of a page in my notebook?
  • When a scent brings you back to a specific time in your life, or when it reiterates that the life you are living is reality, and not just a plan you have thought of for months.
  • When you see someone write something down on a piece of paper and realize they have the same handwriting as your first boyfriend, and anyway where did that mix tape run off to?
  • When I was little I was a very eager student, who always wanted to get a word in with the teacher, whether it was a question, a related story, or an answer to a question.  Naturally my teachers wanted to give everyone a chance, so I would wait to be called, sometimes feigning patience.  How humiliating it was to finally be called upon and completely forget what I was going to say.  My mind’s eye would strain, and I could picture a window that was open, like in the school attic in The Neverending Story, with curtains blowing in the wind, suddenly shut.  Suddenly quiet.  Suddenly the thought was locked outside and I was fogging up the glass as I breathed.  In retrospect I would pray for one of these reminders that I’m talking about.

I cannot wait to see what this theme produces.  I could probably write a series of books on this.  Also, if anyone either knows the right word for this (in English or otherwise), or would like to make one up, please share!

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Just come down already.

ImageI  am at a playground in Brookline and I am perched atop the slide, as I often am.  It is hot.  The vinyl seats of my dad’s green Duster made my legs feel like they were melting, in a bad way. We remembered to leave my Charlie the Tuna towel draped over my seat so I don’t cry like I did on the way over.  I have been on the slide for about ten minutes, or an hour, I don’t know.  I look around, and I see the rose garden.  I see the swings – the bucket ones are for babies, so I don’t go on them anymore.  I’m not a baby.  I am almost three.

I liked going down this slide the last time we were here but now I feel like I am miles away from the ground, like anything can happen.  I am taller than my parents.  I feel like I do when I put on their glasses – this is the view for grownups.  This is how far it is to the ground.  From here I can see everything, but I am also dizzy.  And a little afraid.  No – petrified.  There is an unspoken rule that you cannot go down the ladder once you have reached the top.  The only way down is to slide, which is fun, for that one moment that you barely have a chance to enjoy before you run up the ladder and go again.
On another day, in another playground, my parents would take turns riding down the big fat yellow twisty slide with me, like a family train.  When I went with them, the yellow slide didn’t shock me with its static.  When I went alone I was afraid I would be electrocuted and die, maybe in the tunnel part, and no one would know how to find me.
On the silver slide, though, I am always alone.  It is narrow, and on hot days like this I stick to it, melting onto the hot metal.
And now I sit, immobile.  My parents have been calling to me from the ground, at first the words were contagiously gleeful, then progressed to encouraging, then questioning.  Now they beg for me to just come down already, but I am distracted by a fly that has landed on the small bumper next to my knee.  It is green and shiny, with red eyes.  It is mesmerizing.  It is TERRIFYING and I scramble to my feet.
I am taller than I was, and I kick at the fly as I hold the railings, looking around at the small people forever away, kicking at the sand. Did they see that?  It could have eaten me.  Flies.  Not as bad spiders, but scary enough for me.
I hear a clanking behind me, and turn to find my neighbor climbing up the ladder.  The little grown-ups call to me that I have to share, that I have let go and slide so that other kids can, too.  And I know they’re right.  And my face crumples a little before I make a determined face where my eyebrows and mouth and chin all squinch together to meet my nose in the middle and I show that slide who’s boss.  I whiz down with reckless abandon and my face opens, I am laughing, gulping in air and lifting my arms from the bumpers they’d clung to so desperately before, and I land with a thud, in dirt, copper ringlets turning to a nest around my head and I say, “Again!”  And I run around just in time and clang my way back up the ladder before I can forget how wonderful it is to let go and slide.
My name is Jess Mullen, and writing is what I love to do more than anything in the world. And maybe this is a heavy-handed metaphor for my writing life at the moment. And in my own writing practice I can putter around and get scared of a blank page, but when I am writing it can be as exhilarating as flight.  And yes, sometimes it doesn’t always go as I want, but it’s all part of the experience.
I’m hoping that this year I can take more risks in my writing, commit to doing what I love more, and stop being afraid of whatever lies at the bottom of the slide.  And okay, I think the responsibility of working on this exciting collaborative project with other artists I respect will give me the kick in the pants that I need, even at the eleventh hour.
I have two other blogs that I post in, rather sparingly, called Jess Writes Every Day and I Prefer Saturnalia.  At present I have two memoir projects in the air, but which might be relevant to this Kindred Collective as the weeks wear on.

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