Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Where in the World is My..............Memory?

Where in the World is My Memory? Trying to remember key moments in my life is like trying to find Waldo. 

Remember when we were in Big Sur?”  That was the question asked of me by Nancy, my lifelong friend and frequent traveling companion.  Nope,” I responded.  You never remember anything,” she exclaimed in frustration. 

She went on to tell me that we slept in our car during our trip there.  No memory of the event whatsoever.  I have a lot of those blank holes in my memory.  I told Nancy that I am grateful to have her in my life so she can remind me of things we did together.  I’m a visual kind-of girl; I need a picture in hand or an entry in my journal to help me recall things in my past.  With visual aids the memory is seared into my mind and I then have easy recall.  Otherwise memories are lost to me.   

I decided to test myself and over the last few days I tried to recall certain events of my life; ones that I have been reminded of and ones I know should have made a lasting impression. 

For example, after my freshman year of high school, my grandmother and I moved from the house in Clarence, New York to her farm in Corfu.  All I remember is how upset I was to be moving from Clarence, where we’d lived since I was in first grade, taking me away from my familiar.  I was a stomping teenager who thought the worst thing EVER! was happening to her.  What I have no recollection of is the packing up of the old house, the move itself, or getting settled in at the farm.  I tried and tried to retrace those steps but........ nothing.  Moving is supposed to be one of the most stressful, thus memorable events in one’s life, but I don’t remember how it took place at all.  Maybe because, being the “kid” I was, my grandmother did all the work herself and I just was a passenger along the way. 

I can recall with perfect clarity the many moves I made on my own; from Corfu to Spokane to Simi Valley and then Moorpark.  From there on to Jacksonville, Oregon, then back to Moorpark;  then, Las Vegas to Oakfield to Las Vegas to Attica to Las Vegas.  I’ve moved a lot in my life, haven’t I?  And I can recall the experiences of each of those moves.  Where was I then when we moved from Clarence to Corfu? 

The above is just one example of the many moments I can’t put a finger on and wish that I could.  Seems they've made their way into that black hole. 

The old memories are getting boring and I want to relive some fresh ones now. 

What was the first day like in that new school at Pembroke High School?  I don’t remember that but I do remember the moment when Diane Duken became my high school best friend.  I can recall where we were and what we talked about.  

Something I am extremely curious about is those first years, from age one and up when my brothers and I went to live with our grandmother and her children that still lived at home.  My parents were both dead; it must have been a grief-filled home, but I wonder how I was cared for.  Did my big brothers play with me?  When did I start walking?  How did I come to call my grandmother, “Mommy?”  I was told that while my grandmother went to work, some 40 miles away in Buffalo, I was cared for by the neighbor across the street.  I was told I loved sitting in a red velvet chair while there, but wish I could know more. 

Maybe I should try hypnotism.

There are so many pieces of the puzzle that is my life that I wish I could connect.

Perhaps that is why I spend so much time chronicling now.  Perhaps that was one of the reasons I chose the career path I have: archeologist (literally digging up the past) and oral historian (documenting life stories for the historical record). 

This is such an important issue for me that I have made sure my three grandchildren will know the particulars of their early life by filling in memories in  journals I began writing in from the first day of their lives  To Aiden, With Love).  At least they will have something to refer to when they have those profound questions. 

As for me, I’ll just keep asking those that I’ve known all my life to fill in the blanks!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rest In Peace, Maeve Binchy, and Thank Your for the Trip of a Lifetime

I love reading Maeve Binchy novels; she is such a great character writer. I owe her thanks for all of the hours of pleasure she has given me with her writing, as well as for the fulfillment of a dream that came about because of one of her books. Evening Class (1996) is a novel about a woman who returns home to Ireland after years in Italy. “Signora,” as the character is named, offers to teach a class in learning Italian to her Irish neighbors. It is a wonderful read and very heartwarming. It’s no wonder that my friend Nancy, another avid reader, enjoyed it as well.

I didn’t realize just how much that particular book touched Nancy until she called me one day in 2002 and said, “pack your bags, we’re going to Italy.” Seriously, she called and said that the two of us were going to use her travel miles and her Hilton hotel points to travel in Italy for 10 days. At first I said I couldn’t possibly go. John and I had very little money as we’d just gotten re-established in Las Vegas. But how could I pass up such an opportunity? True to my nature, I leaped without thinking and said, “Yes!”

With $350.00 to my name, Nancy I embarked on another journey (how we did it so cheaply is another story!). Needless to say, it was a trip of a lifetime. I have written about the whole thing in a travel essay; if anyone is remotely interested in reading it, just ask. I talk about every experience: the drive from Vegas to L.A. when I rescued an old dog that had been hit and left on the roadside to the flight in business class (the only way to fly; from the first hotel in Rome to the day and a half we spent in Sicily; from the welcome we received in Valledolmo at the agricultural farm/bed and breakfast owned and operated by the Gioias (Relations? We never truly established that) to my driving in Palermo; and from the train rides to the people, it was a magical, memorable and amazing trip.

How to thank my friend for giving me such a gift? When I returned home I looked on my bookshelf and found my hardback copy of Evening Class. I wrote a letter to accompany the book, included a 10 Euro bank note and addressed the package to Ms. Maeve Binchy, Dublin, Ireland. I crossed my fingers that it would reach her. I asked Ms. Binchy if she would sign the copy of the book, explaining that because of her writing gift and my friend’s generosity, I realized a dream I never thought would come to fruition.

A few weeks later I received the book back, signed with a loving inscription and autograph by the author. Also included with the book was the 10 Euro returned to me. I wrapped the gift and could not wait for Nancy to open it on Christmas day that year. To this day that remains one of my most creative moments!

(The Amalfi Coast)

(Palazzo di Montecitorio)