Now and then.

August 24, 2013 § 9 Comments

Everything in the moment called “now” is in flux. Coming or going. Becoming something new. Now is a kaleidoscope.

But then—the then of memory—is safely static. If memories change over time it is only to become more so–more happy or sad–as they develop the patina gained from frequent handling.

My mother at the breakfast table.I had a happy childhood, a happy adult life. My memories are good.

Bad things happened, sure, but, like old tax returns, I stash those memories in a bottom drawer. I choose the ones I put on the mantle.

My sister, in the “family medical history” part of a checkup, once told her doctor how healthy our family was.

Except for the heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes.

And, well, the cancer.

We are a healthy family. We just prefer our list to the one the doctor wanted.

Many on the Italian side die of extreme old age. “So young!” was the response when one died at eighty-seven.

The Fogelins (owners of most of the ills on the list)  are great walkers, and Claudia and I are both fourth grade high jump champs. Our brother has a ring for bowling a perfect game. Of course we’re healthy-modestly athletic even.

While it is hard to be selective about the present, which comes at us like we are on the receiving end of a fire hose, we have some say over the past.

The past I choose looks like this photo, which could almost be a Vermeer painting. Light enters this scene through a window, catching on a woman in thoughtful repose, a pitcher on a table. It captures an ordinary moment and makes it beautiful.

For me, memory itself is a Vermeer painting. A kindly light picks out what I cherish, making it shine.

Although my memories unabashedly burnish the good, the details that gave them life and breath remain.

I remember that the pitcher, glorified by the light, was chipped in places, the black base metal showing. The milk it held was made with 50% powdered Carnation; it was cheaper. My mother’s pose and expression could be called contemplative, but I bet that what she was that morning, was tired.

If it was a school morning, I, her oldest child, could only find one shoe. I know because this mysterious shoe disappearance happened almost every morning.

Claudia, a dramatic child, was probably tragically unhappy about her school outfit.

Chris was gluing together a project he’d known about for a month but had started the night before—and the school bus had just turned onto Penn Lyle.

I haven’t forgotten that when then was now it too was chaotic—I couldn’t get on the bus wearing one shoe! But as I look back from this now, the past is bathed in a golden light.

No matter what happens as the present unfolds, my memories reinforce my central belief that life is sweet.

Note: An underprivileged childhood is the one that sends its owner into adulthood with bad memories.

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§ 9 Responses to Now and then.

  • You’re turning melancholic, Amy. It might surprise you, but I was the best high jumper in my class in 7th grade. Looking at our parents, who can guess where those jump genes came from. BTW, think you got a typo there. I like to guess what a schiik bus is, but I suspect you meant school bus. 🙂

    Like

  • craig reeder says:

    reminds me of when our kids were little, we were living in china and regular whole milk was not available yet. we used the powdered stuff, and tho i think i got used to it myself OK, the kids never tired of complaining about how lumpy their milk was.

    Like

  • Gerald Dowling says:

    “IT’S ALWAYS BEEN MIND OVER MATTER, GRANNY SAYS. “IF YOU DON’T MIND, IT DOESN’T MATTER.

    THINK MY MOMMIE BOUGHT MY MOTHER A STAND UP FRIDGE WITH A ROUND MOTOR ON TOP SO MY MILK WOULD BE COLD. THAT COULD BE WHAT STARTED THE WHOLE LIFE TIME BATTLE BETWEEN MY GRANDPARENTS AND MY DAD.

    Like

  • KM Huber says:

    Once again, you and I explore the now in our weekly posts. I love when we overlap. “Memory as a Vermeer painting” provides me a perspective on the past that I did not have. Thank you for that.
    Karen

    Like

  • Genia says:

    I loved it, Adrian. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    Like

  • deb reilly says:

    Reading this was fun. Thanks! “So young!” ha!

    Like

  • carolyn says:

    Thanks for the Vermeer reference….. I spent an hour looking for a photo I took of my daughter at the ZuiderZee Museum, where they have a dress-up room of traditional clothing, which the kids were allowed to wear for an hour, walking around the village…. She was standing in the doorway of a traditional house, with a black and white tile floor behind, wearing the white lacy hat, striped skirt and apron, light shining just so on her blond hair…. I guess I do not have it e-form, so will have to go search thru the albums and scan it!! Thanks for the memories!! Here is a link to the museum: http://www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl/en/513/plattegrond/?id=637
    The girls are wearing the same Volendam outfits

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