It was was dark outside. All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side. Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy. The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.
The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm. The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered. The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.
I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness. I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”
The photographs of my life huddle together in the darkness, secure in a bedroom cabinet. They now lead quiet lives, disturbed only occasionally. They once brought only pleasure to me and upon inspection, wonder. Now going through them brings a quotient of sadness too. The scale began to tip about 10 or 15 years ago. Their nearby presence exerts an energy that often tempts me to pay them a visit, but one that I usually resist. It’s a bottomless journey, that once begun leads down a road that’s too nostalgic. It invariably leads to sad emotions that I’d prefer to not indulge. It does show a rich lifetime of family times, travel, holidays and joyful events. The photos allow me to visit people who were once an important part of my life, now no longer available for one reason or another or sometimes for no reason I can state. They just faded away.
Were my eyebrows really once that full and dark? Gazing at a photo of myself holding my infant children in my arms, I can still feel my daughter’s softness and inhale her sweet baby scent. Those sacred pleasures vanished too quickly. Pangs of times passed too quickly and unconsciously. Another photo yields a glance of smiling faces at a school graduation. That was long ago, when there were more beginnings and a door closed meant that another door would soon be opening.
Yesterday, I uncovered a long-lost photo of my mother in her 20’s with a man other than my father. She and her gentleman friend looked very happy. I remembered her telling me many years ago that this man was her boyfriend before she met my father. They were close to engagement. And then they weren’t. The road not taken, but still present in my stash of snapshots. Does the gentleman still have a photo of my mom that his children puzzle over?
There are so many photos! My short-term attempts at organization have always run out of steam. I can never throw out enough of them to even make a small dent in their number. Now they lay, slightly deteriorating by the day, in boxes, albums, and stacks. They give testament to a life and youth gone by. They recall young children, departed relatives, exciting trips to Europe and Japan, important birthdays, a long-lost pet. I want to bring them to life, if only for a brief visit.
I almost gasp when looking at photos of a long-ago party at my house, celebrating the visit of Doug Elkins Dance Company in 1998. Everyone was sooo young and so drunk.
I found a photo of my mother with her arms around two of my daughters, probably taken 40 years ago. They all looked relaxed and happy. This photo brought me joy because my mother hated to have her picture taken, consequently, I have few photos of her where she seems happy and looks the way I want to remember her. She died of Alzheimer’s so my last memories of her are painful to recall. This photo helped me make her real and healthy again. The image is now on my desk and in my heart.
Thousands of digital photos sit right under my fingertips at my computer’s keyboard. They’re so easily accessible, and visited more frequently. They’re available for immediate recall and better organized. I imagine that my grandchildren will have no boxes of photos to store.
Once again there came the time to put these memory capsules back in their cupboard. After writing about them this time, I lovingly put them away, and even managed to feel happy.
Many years ago I was too intimidated to walk into a high end NYC department store such as Berdorf Goodman. My mother favored Saks Fifth Ave when we made our annual visit to NYC. Particularly their pocketbook sales. My guess now is that Berdorf’s intimidated her too. The somewhat haughty “May I help you?” used to make me think that they somehow knew just by looking at me that I couldn’t afford anything they were offering.
My shoes are a better quality now. So is my attitude. Somewhere along the line, maybe when I got older than the sales persons, I stopped feeling intimidated. Maybe it was moving to CA that made me feel and think I looked more or differently sophisticated and could therefore feel ok in this status conscious temple. I know that, at some point, the Upper East Side look,which initially fascinated me and seemed unapproachable started to look conforming and dated. Nothing to fear here, for sure.
Today I wandered into the store needing a new lipstick. NO problem. It was near lunchtime so I made my way to the top floor to find a seat at their restaurant Bg. I took a seat in the lounge, because they told me there was no space in the restaurant itself. I had a perfect vantage point by the entrance to the restaurant to watch the arrival of the Ladies who Lunch. and even surreptitiously take a few photos for this blog.
“Look how gorgeous you are!”exclaims one socialite to another. “I didn’t recognize you in this fabulous color!”
It’s a chic timeless room with a green canopy of trees from Central Park visible from the windows. The upholstered small tables for two by the windows are understandably coveted. A place to see and be seen.
“A glass of white burgundy and ice water with a straw,” the woman seated next to me briskly instructs her waiter.
I easily broke the diners into categories. (90% female)
A. Those dressed all in black with and without a reservation, looking quite comfortable and more than pleased to grab a seat in the lounge when told there was no room in the restaurant itself. They know their way around here.
B. Those who step off the elevator looking uncertain. They are doomed to remain on the outside of this clubby enclave. Treated kindly as far as I could tell, but quickly turned away. The woman in the center of this photo epitomizes this look.
C. Young, polished, self-assured creatures who were there to attend a private party in the curtained off back room.They swept right through the door by passing the hostess. No one dares to question their right to be there.
D. The impeccably dressed and coiffed single female guests, greeted with a hug and large smile by the maitre d. He is positioned discreetly across the door from the hostess whom most check in with, for such an occasion when someone of “import” arrives and needs to be fussed over and ushered into the inner sanctum. Maybe there’s always a table waiting for this kind of guest? Too obvious and too close to even attempt a photo here.
I couldn’t help noticing the power shoes that came through the door. It was easy taking the photos of feet.
LOoks like the afro is back.
The people watching was great here. Probably unchanged for the last century. I think the only thing that fortunately has changed is my frame of reference!
If I could sum up the most important thing I learned during my junior high years, it would be the statement frequently heard in my Social Studies class when a question was posed by our teacher to which no one had the answer. “You remember what you want to remember,” she thundered. I cowered. I was a timid soul in those years.
Miss Dunn was the end of the line for the never married teacher. She must have been under 5′ tall, stout, buxom, with greyish white hair, cut short. You didn’t mess with Miss Dunn, but you learned what she wanted to teach you. She still had the remnants of an Irish brogue and she scared me to death. She taught me grammar in 7th grade and then was my Social Studies teacher in 8th. She was a stickler for details, but when she taught, I remembered, because I knew it was in my best interests. I’ve often said she was the only good teacher I ever had as an undergrad. The above photo is the only time I remember her smiling. May she rest in peace.
I never have described myself as someone with a “good” memory. These days, as my recall gets a little dodgy, Miss Dunn’s words continue to reverberate. Do I not care enough about the things I’m forgetting? Maybe not! There are still many things I clearly remember. They are usually things that I cared about or things that scared the s*%t out of me, searing some brain cells in the process.
But, heaven help me if Miss Helen Dunn would reappear today to ask me what I ate for dinner last week, or ask me to remember details of a conversation I had recently. Could not do. I obviously just didn’t care enough.
Now, some things just have stayed with me, like the words to songs or my mother’s warnings like “Don’t come crying to me!” I’ve never been one to remember plots of movies. That’s been going on for a long time. Now, even if I hear the title, I might not be sure I’ve seen it, never mind recount the plot! I also can forget the plots of books, although I generally remember if I liked/disliked.
But I’m not getting worked up about being a little more forgetful than I’ve been. Yet.
I love the poignant ballads, “I Remember You” as well as “Try to Remember.” I’ll feel certain that I’ll still be able to sing those songs on my deathbed.
I’ve always had trouble remembering why I’m angry at someone because I can’t usually remember the reason for it. That’s for the best I think. I have been heard to say, “I’m supposed to be angry with _____, but I forgot why.”
All the new emphasis on brain exercises doesn’t interest me. I still like to think, as Miss Dunn would have it, that if it’s important enough, I’ll remember it!