are memories useful

Can I Miss The Past Without Wanting It Back?

Spring time, although delayed, this year,
Fills my body up with heavy nostalgia.
And nostalgia is forceful, pressing the door open,
As if it weren’t automatic.

What do memories do for us? How do they serve us? Is it important to remember the houses we grew up in, or the women who nursed us? Or who didn’t. When I think back to smaller days I panic at the prospect of forgetting it all. Once in a while my sister and I will call each other with a few scattered pieces of a story from our childhood, desperately hoping the other can fill in the rest. But what if we can’t?

A flashbulb memory is a vivid ‘snapshot’ of an emotionally arousing moment. However because of how accurately we claim to recall it, we’ve also been known to fabricate the missing pieces of the story. With utter surety we pencil them in, and go on living with our little half truths. How can we trust such faultiness? I base my present on my past. I am who I am because of what I remember of who I was. I’ve allowed my childhood to shape me, or at least what I can recall of it…

And I cannot fight the nostalgia that comes with the early air of spring. The familiar smells, heading straight for my frontal lobe, ready to trespass into my stream of consciousness, expecting me to wade.

I recall the yellow and purple crocuses, peeking out from under the snow. They lift their signs up in protest, their roots strong and prepared to accept the wavering temperatures at all costs. I remember how sad I was for them, wilted before they ever got the chance to bloom. Pushing their heads out prematurely as the doctor dons his latex gloves.

I remember transitioning from a puffy, marshmallow winter coat that all the other kids made fun of, to a lighter, spring jacket, all torn up on the inside. With my mother’s permission, I fold up my winter sweaters and store them in linen bags up on the high shelves of the closet. I can reach them only by standing on the wobbly wooden chair in my sister’s bedroom.

I was ready to transition, to grow, to start something new.

No more cold weather tying us to the indoor, brick fireplace, sooty and further blackened by a winter of malnourishment. No more missing gloves or frozen fingers, unfairly paying the toll. No more unfortunate slips and stumbles while running after the bright yellow school bus; my mother, trailing closely behind me.

I unload bags of t-shirts, Hanes and floral prints, hoarded over the winter months. The smell of mothballs invading perfectly good spring air. Old, tattered clothes, creased and taking up space. I hated being told what to wear. No black, no shirts with words on them, nothing too bright or too tight. Nothing low, nothing sleeveless, no skinny jeans.

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I remember packing clothes to change into when I got to school, ducking under the seats of the school bus to somehow alter my appearance. Squeezing the hinges on the sides of the dirty windows to let the air in, the stuffy leather seats sticky, the way leather seats often are.

I remember the puddles left from melting pots of snow, the tangled jump rope smacking the concrete rhythmically, as we skip in time.

My spring coat is a sheet of light blue flesh, draped over my exposed ivory bones. The inside so torn, the pockets connect in the back through a damp, secret passageway. Coins jingle behind me, all knotted up in the lining. Tissues stick and melt, lost until next year. The air is still cold in my nose; my open shoe laces drag in the mud as another rubber ball is kicked onto the roof of my elementary school. I think of my own backyard, the way the winter knows to erode anything in its way. My own swing set rusted and worn. Years added to its appearance, while it remained stagnant and unknowing.  

All those years ago.

How can I trust these memories? Jaded and worn down by time and rust. Replaced by new things, new friends, new living arrangements. Diplomas and letters and music no one likes anymore. How can I believe what is old and buried, recalled only in the face of pungent, springtime nostalgia? Our bodies force us to recall what was once present and dear. The rest, I will lose, or wait until something in the future will summon it back to the surface. But does any of it really matter?

I hoard memories, the same way one may hoard physical possessions. I recount and retrace my steps. I fear losing them, those that are far off and exist in a the places I may never return to. And all I’ll have left are the thoughts and the feelings that accompany them — if I’m lucky.

Losing a memory is losing a piece of my life. If I can’t recall it, how can I trust who I am? If I can’t remember the colors, how can I go forward and trust that I am living as my true self?

Instead of a dweller, I am a visitor. Few pictures, fewer passages, and fading memories. What will I have left? Another springtime, another grand melting underway, a chance to live it all like it’s new and fresh. Little trails of pollen, singing in the wind, dancing in the noses of those; deathly allergic.

Spring time, although delayed, this year,
Fills my body up with heavy nostalgia.
And nostalgia is forceful, pressing the door open,
As if it weren’t automatic.