Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Imperceptible Evolution

23 July 2012

Dear J-

In the month since the equinox the days have grown imperceptibly shorter; the main difference I’ve noticed is the sun doesn’t rise with the same alacrity as it did in the early part of the month. The twilit evenings stlll linger on and on in a perfect echo of the day, though, prompting figgy to ask that she not have to go to bed, as there’s still daylight outside. The thought echoes through generations back to my own childhood, asking restlessly and peeking through the curtains on a late glowing summer in Cheney, pressing against cool walls and iron rails in an effort to drive out the heat.

I remember that we used to swim every night in the neighbor’s pool, their children long since grown and moved out. I remember the feel of the pebbled concrete beneath our feet and the various inscects we’d find trapped beneath cover and water; I remember my parents reveling in the unexpected luxury of worn-out kids, telling us that we slept better with some chlorine in our hair, me dreaming all the while of that floating feeling, buoyancy supporting every inch by inch closer to the surface.

Mostly though I remember summers as a time when my parents always had more than enough time when we asked: can we? Yes. We can. We will. We did. It feels strange to have the same sort of interactions with our kids, as Calcifer plunges towards two and I can’t see how the terror could be any more, as he’s already found ways to torment his sister, who’s little more than an unchained ball of emotions at the moment. How do you make time for that? Moment by moment, taking out one distraction after another until all that’s left are you and these two little humans you have to lead by example and patience; would that I could translate the words to deeds so easily.



Buried Past

3 August 2011

Dear J-

We often think that there are obstacles in our lives that are insurmountable but upon further reflection (generally in hindsight) we wonder that we even thought it was worth worrying about at all. Speaking as someone who has personally lived through the age of thirteen I can assure you it’s true. Yet I wonder how it’s going to be for the kids as popular culture has portrayed those years as anything from awkward flirting to utter bullied hell. I don’t know what the future holds for us or them. I envision home as a safe haven for them which is what I needed at that age but what new pressures would the big bad city bring to bear on that picture?

On the other hand how do you do outside the concentrated lens of a small town where everybody knows everyone and your business flashed across the local gossip lines before you can take another step? Unique situations mean novel solutions unlike what pop culture tells us what fixes that which ails us; confidence, moxie, spirit, gumption. We are all moderately awful at being teenagers but there are those (like me) who never had a chance at acting on where my hormones would lead me. I look at her busy social life and I’m assured that figgy will have no shortage of friends.

Because of perceived issues and distance there are lots of people on Facebook, say, that I haven’t seen nor talked to (in person) for twenty years. How long do you let things like that fester? How long before your gawky attempts at romance come back to haunt you? What are the chances of explaining your old intentions? And does it really matter? Here’s the secret: you’re not alone. Everyone’s een through it before, and everyone had a particular memory that they replay like poking your tongue into a tooth socket, worrying about the nothing your mind has managed to inflate beyond recognition. They understand more than you suspect because they’ve been there too, so give it a chance and let the past lie buried.


Humdrum Photo

30 June 2011


Dear J-

Do you have any pictures of the hopelessly mundane? Did we ever think to take a camera along on these long debate trips to capture simple things like playing football in the snow or the sheer exhaustion that comes on after dinner and there’s one more match to go or just the bus ride, mountains and snow and tunnels? Even something as ordinary as the view from your front door of the house you grew up in would be welcome. I sometimes panic because we don’t necessarily have all of that: there are memories and moods of 31 Woodman Street (Boston MA 02130) that I failed to get like those first few mornings in a new place, the blue curtains lending cool light in an odd place, or the cats yowling their love songs outside.

It’s not all lost if I can remember it and write it down I suppose but it would be nice for photographic evidence to fix it in my head and remind me in emotional shorthand what it meant to bring Bean home from across the country for the first time, for instance. You believe in what you want but I’m sticking with the power of the picture to set mood to place. Now that my parents have sold their house in Cheney I suppose there’s no way to go back and ask the current occupants if I can go back in and capture the view from the bedroom window or the how the light changes in the corner office or even holing tghe back door open with the family room door (there they’d clash together at an angle I’d always call Hong Kong in my secret heart).

Problem is we never think to grab these things before it’s too late, believing that there’s still another year to do so, another week left, a few more minues aren’t going to hurt anything. We don’t capture the everyday because it falls beneath our notice. It’s easy to photograph the novelties and everything’s interesting when you’re out and about but we take the humdrum just like it sounds, for background noise tuned out by our regular filters acting too strongly. We become allergic to the ordinary. The remarkable falls before the usual and before you know it time’s up, hand in your papers and have a nice day, drive the point home with the mundane.


Car Talk

29 June 2011

Dear J-

I remember when my parents traded in their old Cougar in 1980. It was eleven years old at that point and pretty tired, 351 Windsor backed up by an automatic transmission somehow making it through the gas crises of the 70s but finally falling victim to the desire for more cargo space. It was supplanted by an Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon whose rear windows didn’t roll down: that was considered either unsafe for children or lazy on the part of the designers. On the other hand the cargo space was measured to make sure that my brother and I could lie down side-by-side to sleep so safety may not have been the paramount concern.

I imagine my dad had a bit of an obsession since going to Yellowstone the year before with his uncle. We rode in the Cougar crammed full and riding on a plywood board converting the back seat into a seatbelt-less playpen while my grand-uncle drove his kids majestically in a new Olds Ninety-Eight wagon complete with nausea rear-facing 3rd-row seat (unfolded to my amazement and constant wonder) and power windows, heck, power-everything. The Cougar left us stranded once in Spokane (outside of R&R in fact) and that must have sealed its fate. Hubcaps missing and headlight covers somewhat askew (we never killed any cats but they were always tempted by warm spaces under the hood) we rolled into Barton Oldsmobile looking for our next ride.

The first Camry followed in quick succession and later cars for the family we imported from China: a Citation for my uncle and aunt, an Escort for my cousin, a cargo van for the store which we spent hours insulating and upgrading in the driveway — I was young enough to not have much homework and fascinated by tools and the promise of change too, at the conjunction of child and sullen pre-teen that velcros themselves to the nearest parental adult and believes they can do no wrong. I think about my fourteen-year-old Subaru and wonder if I should get something new when it still runs fine and economically and wonder if figgy would miss it like I do the Cougar sometimes.


Real Life

23 June 2011

Dear J-

There is something intrinsically personal with music to the point where you can’t be assured of getting the right stuff just by reading reviews. Sometimes the album will grow on you, while others may exhibit a decided nostalgia depending on your own experiences. Case in point: let’s say Journey’s Only the Young, which in its best objective evaluations garners praise as another Journey song that doesn’t deviate much from the typical formula: guitar & Steve Perry singing to burst his lungs. Yet for me because they play it over the opening credits in Vision Quest and its iconic scenes from downtown Spokane and Riverfront Park I can’t help but flash back to skywalks and skating.

It reinforces the notion I’ve been kicking around in my head lately, your experiences make you just as unique as your fingerprints would. Your media consumption is driven in a way that makes us mutualy unintelligible especially given that we’ve spent our adult lives in different orbits and with different people. Although we may always have the same shared memories from growing up we may see them in different ways and the same memory can be a source of shame for me and pride for you. I’m wondering if I should go to the twenty-year high school graduation reunion, which is coming up next year already.

Twenty years does count for a lot. I’m now closer to finishing up my second twenty and I can’t say with precision that I haven’t grown as much from twenty to forty as from zero to twenty. We have such long roads ahead as adults still though maybe the realization that our midlife crises will take mundane forms such as excessive materialism and distant travel makes me think that despite all the differences in the past twenty perhaps we’re all growing more similar than ever. There’s only so much that can be done differently (diffidently) and the limits on vision and experience are already fading into distant view.



2 April 2011


Dear J-

figgy paused in her trail of destruction through the day long enough to draw this for our edification. For doing as little as it turned out we did today it sure was exhausting, so I took advantage of the opportunity to catnap the edge off for the ten minutes or so it took for this to appear on the page. In her media lately — whether paint, marker, or crayon — she has gone with a complex color scheme of layering pigment upon pigment so that what appears to be black is secretly a mixture of every color available. Okay, so it’s not sophisticated and can be downright frustrating at times but she has at least started to make shapes that are almost recognizable as opposed to the jaggedy lines that were her hallmark in years past.

Everywhere you turn there’s fresh evidence of growing up. Diversions that worked a few months ago are met with derisive snorts. Nice try. That might have worked on a baby but she’s clearly not, not now and not any more. Just remember what a rush you were in to grow up: correspondence to mask the youthful voice, ready to test your wings on the wind. Wait any longer for things to change and you’ll miss it all. The great regret I have is not being able to spend more time with her even as she drives me nuts. The job keeps me out of the house so much and circumstances being what they are we’ve pretty much split duties when we’re both around: I get her, theVet gets Calcifer as she’s equipped in unique ways that I’m not. And the more time we do spend I find new regrets for mulling over throughout the time apart.

You can read anything you want into a collection of brushstrokes and colors. Whole forests have been felled and rivers of ink spilled in analysis of motive and motivation behind art. The beauty of ambiguity is that all interpretations can be valid simultaneously. On the other hand once you declare your intentions you’re stuck with your words, hanging out there between you, forever frozen in your shared memories. What do I want to have her remember years from now? These are the years she sets up her first few permanent memories and these need to keep her warm and lend her strength.


Stay Away

3 November 2010

Dear J-

I’ve listened to what I’ll dub the new DSC (which at the moment is missing the S part), the morning radio show that, while it was on 101.5, offered a complete mix of juvenile humor, borderline titillation, and telephone antics to make me look forward to having to drive in to work myself. They were laid off in January, but made a return to 100.7 in July (by that time that particular station had already made the move to bump Monique and the Man into irrelevance), minus what you might consider the conscience of the show, who was still under contract to Clear Channel at the old station. And … I don’t know. It’s like New Coke, I suppose; at the time I couldn’t tell whether it was my fond memories of the old favorite or the failings of the new, but I never quite developed a taste for the updated flavor.

There are of course cost considerations: radio personalities pull down bigger bucks than a preprogrammed music server or the proverbial disc jockey, there to make brief announcements and keep the seat warm and music loaded. So sure, it makes plenty of finanical sense to ax your morning folks in favor of music, and as the thought continues, cut costs to boost profits. If you’ve read any of the Millenium Trilogy, one of the themes that leapt out at me was that when times are tough it’s time to reinvest in your assets. As the print newspapers kept bleeding subscribers*, they insisted on keeping veteran staffers around in an initially counterintuitive move, the thought being that getting interesting articles that would attract readers would come from your experienced folks.

There’s some spark missing from the new edition of the DSC, whether it’s rust, nostalgia, or management directive I can’t say. I’ve been spending evenings in the company of my memories, sifting through the flotsam of my childhood and running across a few things every hour that make me stop and mentally celebrate milestones, achievements, and anniversaries. I’m still waiting to see if there’s anything that’s going to make me do the same with the new DSC, but time’s running out and I’m nearly ready to chalk them into the shoulda-stayed-gone column.


* This doesn’t just apply in fiction; our local Union-Tribune keeps cutting costs, switching to a narrow, cheap-feeling paper and axing pretty much everyone who isn’t connected to the Sports pages. There is no permanent movie critic as James Hebert either retired or was pushed out years ago in favor of the now conspicuously missing “movie maniac” Lee Grant. Movie reviews are written by rotation and committee, thereby serving precisely none of the public as consistent viewpoints disappear.

It’s not helping; we had as front page news a few weeks ago an article by Michael Stetz about how much better San Diego was than New York (it could have been an interesting article if there was any research done on New York, like swapping citizens for a week, say, or sending the author back east, but definitely one for the lifestyle page, not the main above-the-fold article of the day). The sports columnists have become mouthpieces for our local teams, explaining why we should be happy with what we’ve got and exhorting us to support a downtown stadium for the Chargers in the meantime (one, Tim Sullivan, happens to be in love with his vocabulary, but that doesn’t make his writing any more interesting, and the other, Nick Canepa, hasn’t written anything I’ve wanted to clip out since his post-9/11 reactions). How can the Reader keep folks like Brizzolara around — and hire ex-UT staffers like Don Bauder?

Throwing it Away

14 October 2010

Dear J-

There’s a pile of electronic stuff in the garage this morning waiting to be picked up: one TV, three CRT computer monitors (including a Zenith ZCM-1490 flat-front one that I still remember marveling over twenty-five years ago), three stereo receivers in wooden enclosures, three CD players, one AM/FM tuner, one DirecTV/Ultimate TV box, four speakers, four cell phones, and four portable computers of varying utility. I thought about taking a picture of the stuff last night but couldn’t find myself doing so: better to just have it gone by the time I get back home. It’s symptomatic of how I think in that I’m still thinking about the Zenith monitor I haven’t used in eight years — I bought it based on a memory of how state-of-the-amazing-art it was when I was young.

They say that the baby boom generation is the one that priced collectible muscle cars where they are now: people don’t buy them because the performance is better than contemporary cars, they buy them because they remember how cool they were when they were a kid. And while the likelihood of Zenith flat-front monitors becoming collectible is questionable at best, it’s because of that memory that one’s ended up in my garage for the last ten years (I know I got that particular one in Davis). I also remember how exciting it was helping my parents shop for an upgrade to their stereo stuff — after months of darkened audio showrooms (this, in 1985, was the way you bought electronics: no internet to guide you, just slick salesmen demoing satin black boxen with buttery knobs, flashy lights, and crisp buttons) we got the receiver my folks use to this day — a Yamaha R-8 — and that feeling has guided every squee of discovery in a thrift store since.

They say that the hoarding impulse kicks in around puberty; I certainly remember having little tin boxes full of trinkets long before then, but neither the means nor the room to scratch that particular itch. And if it has anything to do with the memories we’ve made together, I wonder what activities figgy will associate with her happiest times. It’s completely wonderful and exhausting to interact with her as a real person lately; she’s grown terribly bossy and inventive (the latest game involves flopping onto my back while I’m prone, simulating an asteroid strike as in the beginning of Aliens versus Monsters, then swapping roles at the other end of the room; there’s lots of running and flopping, almost as though we were Karl Malone), charming and aggravating all at once.

This Saturday is our last alone together for a while: theVet is cutting out of work and starting to nest, and we’ll have our full weekends together until she goes back to work in some other capacity maybe six months from now. In a lot of ways it’s easier, as one of us can watch figgy while the other one gets things done. In other ways, though, it’s something to mourn, as no time alone means no focused attention and no distinct memories of us together; it’s important to stand as a family, but it’s at least as important to define ourselves together individually if that makes sense: who am I to figgy, who am I to theVet, who am I to the upcoming baby? And that shouldn’t start and end with the pile of junk in the garage that’s disappearing today.


Time Promise

29 September 2010

Dear J-

I’m flipping though old photographs last night — and old here is a relative term, given that I’ve only been shooting with a digirtal camera since 2004 or so — and thinking that boy do my brother’s kids look young and all of a sudden it hits me: here we are, near where they were. Let me explain. The pictures in question were the oldest ones I have around, taken at a cousin’s wedding, but if I do the mental arithmetic, figgy is now the age that my brother’s eldest was in those pictures. Sure, it’s a relatively pedestrian milestone, but it underscores how fast time is moving; surely it wasn’t that long ago, and yet the numbers all add up. Life moves on: three of the other cousins in that folder of JPEGs are now in college or even grad school, and I’m left wondering where all that time went.

It doesn’t help much to note that the shirt I’m wearing today is at least ten years old. When you’re in the midst of sorting through stuff for donations it’s better not to linger on the memories and pull it out quickly, like a bandage. Yet here I am thinking of all the sentiment that goes into the latest box of junk I’ve unearthed from the closet; if the truth is that I haven’t opened and used it in the last year or two, then I really don’t need to be keeping it around. Much of the stuff will end up migrating to the garage, I’m sure, but until then, I’m stuck trying to come up with compelling explanations to keep them around. Perhaps (if I had the time to spare, I suppose) I’d want to photographically document each item before moving on in order to have some sort of a record: this was in my life.

What do you do as an adult? Remember when you were a kid and it felt like you couldn’t wait to grow up and make your own rules, find your own way? Remember when you had to kill time? The days are no longer once you’re all grown up, but where I was able to pack so much into an hour, now it seems like it keeps slipping through my fingers, a minute here or there, sleep in a little longer until the buzzer sounds and you’re off, finding or trying to find your way through the morning activities before you’re back at work, back at school, back to reality. I need to remember the relative dilation of time that has nothing to do with relativity and everything to do with age: the time I spend with figgy may feel immense to her and just an instant for me. Remember this above all else.


Water’s Edge

31 August 2010

Dear J-

I’ve driven home from the beach barefoot — the rime of salt and sand slowly drying as we motor along. When I get to wherever that particular there is, I swing my legs over the side and brush off my feet before getting out of the car, shaking the memory of sun and surf off my head before moving on to more permanent things. Sometimes it feels as though my memories are suspect, like sand castles built too close to the tide line; bringing the remnants home helps to anchor them in my mind. There is nothing like walking barefoot on sand, but I posit there is also nothing like walking barefoot no concrete with sandy feet, nor is there anything like the feel of the worn rubber pedals under bare feet.

I could probably count the number of beaches I’ve been to on a few hands. I think humans have been to any interface between land and water at least once, however; there’s something that draws us, with the inconstant water slowly wearing on the permanent fissures of the land. The water’s role, playful and beguiling at times, stormy and furious at others, contrasts with the solid, stolid earth, reliably predictable and plodding. It is the study of dynamic contrasts that gives us drama.

In the quiet of the dark morning the sea continues its relentless pursuit of each wave ashore followed by another, and another. Light brings activity, and when the light goes down, we build our fires on the beach, heaped high with the castoffs from the ocean, crackling fluid flames reaching into the night until we grow restless and restful and leave the cycle to start again. If you focus on the patterns in life that’s all you’ll ever see, the same series repeated ad infinitum, just as if your world is full of conflict, that’s how you’ll approach your life. The two blend together at water’s edge; you perceive them at once, forever and instantly.