Theresa and I were discussing early memories; she mentioned that many of hers are “snapshots,” a clear memory of one moment, without the precursor, the circumstantial motion of a video, and the postscript. Comparing memories, I think she’s right.
She remembers visiting her grandfather in the hospital, her picture of a man in bed with tubes attached. I, of course, remember the shock, when we arrived for a visit, of my mother meeting us with strained face, Daddy not there to greet us, the awkwardness of not knowing what to ask or say, knowing cancer had come back. In those days and our family, one did not talk about death.
I remember sitting on a high stool in our kitchen watching a tall man in a very impressive army uniform, 1943 or 1944. My mother, not in my “snapshot” but undoubtedly present, would, I am certain, remember the joy and concern of a visit with her “baby” brother and his scheduled deployment to the European theater.
Theresa remembers jumping from retaining wall to lawn at Grandma Ruth’s home. In her memory, the height was impressive; driving by the house years later, the wall had shrunk to a mere step in height. Grandma Ruth would remember the pleasure of a walk around the neighborhood with her first grandchild, the “look at me” delight of a child testing her strength, the feel of that small hand as they crossed the street.
I remember the amazing discovery that I could jump from my bed to my parents’ bed. They would remember squeezing the three of us into a shared apartment in housing-short Chicago in wartime, a result of the scarcity of teaching jobs for a middle-aged Professor of Anatomy when so many college-age men were off fighting.
Videos may never be a total replacement for photo albums while early memories work like snapshots instead of motion pictures, and in reviewing an album instead of a video, there is time to bring up the memory and study the details, the hair ribbon Mom tied so carefully, the shades of color on Mom’s favorite rose, the duck barely visible on the other side of the pond…
And the ultimate snapshot memory–my mother’s charcoal sketch of my father, camping in Maine 60 years ago. The precursor was our annual trek from summer with Grandmother Louise on the Massachusetts coast to school and winter in Kansas, my sadness on leaving, my hope that this year I had outgrown carsickness. The circumstance was unrelenting rain, the lake below camp rising noticeably overnight, our tent dripping condensation inside, the smells of wet earth and wet canvas, the feel of damp bedding and clothes. Post script: After we broke camp, Daddy stopped in town for a shave and learned we’d been camping in the northernmost remainder of a hurricane.