Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

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Save A Hard Copy Of Everything That Might Be Important To You. This Does Not Mean You Should Keep Everything, But Some Day You’ll Be Glad You Did Some Selective, Creative Savery.

March 10, 2012

And bring me a hard copy of the Internet so I can do some serious surfing • Scott Adams, Dilbert

During the latter part of the twentieth century (golly, that sounds self-important!), I taught in a high school dropout prevention program. I often recorded my students’ words so I would remember them. Years later, I’ve forgotten most of those words, but I can revisit them because I have that written record. Now that I teach teachers, I’m especially glad I saved so many things that help me be first person present in my high school teaching past. I’m also glad that I have hard copies of my related reflections. I am both amused and saddened when students tell me that they have electronic copies of materials and don’t need hard copies, dismissing my pleas to print and file. Today’s computer is tomorrow’s obsolete, toxic landfiller. And all those electronic files you saved on your Apple IIe? G-O-N-E!

I’m especially happy that I saved what follows here. When teachers are frustrated by their students’ behavior, it’s easy to forget that what we want them to do may matter very little in the bigger picture of their lives. Sometimes acknowledging those realities is a first step toward helping students engage in the kinds of empowering educational experiences that really do change lives, or at least change perceptions about possibilities. In the quotation/reflection that follows, students’ comments are in italics, interspersed with my own reflective thoughts:

Always the Same • Always Different

So I sit and listen and again I am overwhelmed by all I cannot do, a thousand problems that I cannot solve, the pain I can’t prevent, the angry lives unfolding opening sharing revealing more than I want to know because I’m only one and I’m carrying this invisible sack of worry and troubles of my own, the one that’s hidden from them behind my sunny smiles, the smiles they crave like candy or even some kind of drug, smiles withheld so often in so many places that when they get one, they cannot get enough.

And so I sit and listen and begin to understand that this always comes first. This dreadful torrent that pools in front around among us—each story adding to the waters that swirl with blended colors of our private agony. We stir the waters, salty with our tears, seeing each other with eyes washed clean. Every year the same. Every year different. Games and names and sharing our shallowest safest memories until we cross this bridge over our waters into another world. A place that’s real. Circled round, lounging on floor and couches, waiting for someone else to trust. Open. I’ve seen this many times, but I always wonder if. If the time will come when ones together become us, when we see the sameness underneath the difference, when what matters less is overwhelmed by what matters more. And so it begins.

My stepdad says I can’t go nowhere in the house. Just stay in the garage he says and if I want to be there I got to pay rent.

He stops.

There’s a freezer out there, but they got a big ole lock on it so I can’t get in. The only bathroom I got is in this trailer my grandma left in the yard, but it don’t work so I go in the yard at night if I have to and just cover it up.

He stops again. We wait. He doesn’t sa anything else. No one says anything. He’s hanging out there. Naked. Me? I want to jump in and say something. Offer something. But it’s not my tie. Another voice, so quiet we can hardly hear begins.

We sold our Levis yesterday. We were holding on to those, my mom and me. We like them a lot, but they wouldn’t give us anything for our Wranglers. My mom is gonna get a job pretty soon. Waitin’ for a call. I wrote a poem about being homeless. Wanna hear?

She pulls a piece of paper from her backpack—her new backpack—we can still do that much around here—supplies and backpacks and winter coats and PE clothes and bread and peanut butter and Ramen noodles and sometimes milk and even juice. She reads her words about doing homework by the glow of a cigarette lighter and dreaming of the better life she’ll have if she can only graduate.

And I wonder. What the hell am I doing? What am I promising? Acting as if this place we sit ifs the gateway to some promised land that offers all the things they’ve never had and maybe never will. We sit surrounded by pictures of their dreams and homes and happiness, cars and children, freedom to be to do to have to dream and have it all come true. I lose sight of why I’m here. What I can do. It gets lost in the sea of what I can’t. But still I, still we, listen.

I’m pregnant. Again. You’re gonna know soon enough so I might as well tell you. This time, it’s twins.

Period. We wait, but she just sits and glares. Folded arms and I know she’s just waiting for the word—any word—a wrong word—so she can up and bolt and leave this place and run to get the only piece of love that life has given her. Pick him up from daycare. Go to the park. Push him on the swing. Imagine that the life he’ll have is different form her own. Now this. And what’s it going to mean? We wait. Staring into space. Avoiding eye contact. Is it safe? Will it stay here? Will he be broken never to be fixed if we remove these masks, dismantle the facades, discover we are all in places we would never choose?

So I’m sleepy, you know. And you all poke me when I drift off and yell in my ear and I jump and you think it’s pretty funny, don’t you. Well, I’ll tell you this and you can see how funny you think it is. My dad left and he isn’t coming back and I’m working now ‘cause my mom’s two jobs just don’t cut it any more, not with five kids. I’m the oldest, man of the house now, my mom says. I work till four every morning and damn straight I’m tired. So leave me the hell alone, okay?

He slouches back and closes his eyes. We wait some more. And so it goes.

There are many spaces we inhabit that are filled with adolescent or adult angst and challenges, but often we don’t know our students or our friends or our colleagues or co-workers well enough to know what kinds of difficulties they may be grappling with. Sometimes we don’t even know these things about our families. As you go through your day, I hope you’ll take care of yourself, of course, but I also hope you’ll be charitable and kind, knowing that you don’t truly know what kind of burdens may be weighing down the others you encounter.

I also hope you’ll keep a hard copy of important information you may want to revisit some day!

What is it about today that you may want to remember tomorrow? How do you plan to do it?

I finished the paper, but the computer ate it. It’s gone. I have my notes, but nothing else. • Comments I’ve heard countless times during my teaching career, W-OZ

 

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Losing What Can’t Be Found

January 2, 2012

I have nobody in my life where I can say, “Remember when. . .” • Joan Rivers

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each others’ dreams, we can play together all night. • Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

My youngest brother died in 1988 and I’ve only dreamed about him once. I still remember talking to him, walking as we did so many times, to Norm’s to share a hot fudge sundae. I didn’t record this dream and although it happened many years ago, I can still recall my disappointment when I awoke. Most dreams are forgotten unless they’re written down, but some dreams are remembered even though we long to forget them.

I had such a dream last night. I do not think I will forget this one either. My Aunt Mildred had died and I was packing up her house. I felt the pain of her death as I worked. My mother and my cousin Sugar—Sugar somehow mobile after many bedridden years—were taking boxes to their cars after I packed them. I never saw either of them, but I could hear their voices, laughing and arguing about what would fit where, reminiscing about my aunt—mom’s sister and Sugar’s mother—telling stories about her life. I shouted to them, but they didn’t answer.

The house was strange, circular with narrow corridors walled yet open at the top so I could hear the other two, yet never see them. The walls were always between us and their voices were always around the endless corner in the endless corridor. I walked toward the voices, hoping to catch the two, but their voices receded as I got closer. I wanted to see Sugar walking and laughing. I wanted to see my mother’s face. I wanted to touch her hand. Talk to them. Hug them. I remember being frustrated but hopeful, sure that I would eventually catch up with them. But I never did.

And I never will. They are all dead: my mother a year ago this month, Sugar in September, Aunt Mildred several years ago, and even in my dreams I cannot find them. Once we were The Four Musketeers and now I am the only one left to remember the fun we had in our matching black watch plaid jumpers and purple shoes. I am the only one who can picture the four of us in gingerbread man bathing suits with ruffled bottoms. The only one who knows about the gardenias we bought at Union Station. Holidays are fraught with memories of what once was and will never be again and it is easy to be sad. But this morning shortly after I awoke, while I was feeling sad and looking for work to distract me, I found this quotation from Patsy Cline in my mother’s handwriting: “You don’t get anywhere wallerin’ in misery.” And that’s the message I’ll remember when I think of this dream.

What have you lost? What have you found?

Pain comes like the weather, but joy is a choice. • Rodney Crowell

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Over The River And Through The Words

January 24, 2011


A little girl, asked where her home was, replied, “where mother is.” • Keith L. Brooks

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. • Washington Irving

My mother died two weeks ago and I cannot find the words I need to write about her life. I’ve tried. Begun and then begun again and yet again. The finality of this summing up constricts me, requires significance and weight and seriousness, all elusive in these tender days of memory. Instead I find myself awash in other words that dance around the edges of her life.

Elegy for My Mother’s Stuff*

Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn, January 23, 2011

There is the loss.

Yes, there is that.

But next to what is lost,

this is the hardest thing,

this letting go:

Closets cleaned, her favorite

black watch plaid will warm

someone unknown, and

cupboards now are bared of

long-remembered meals. How much

I wish I’d kept the old spaghetti pot

that I don’t need (since need has never

stopped me). No.

This is the hardest thing,

this letting go.

Drawers emptied, counters

cleared of life’s ephemera,

divided into keep don’t keep,

discarding every thing that meant

something, though not to other eyes,

and how I long to find the key that

signifies the pocketwatch the rings the letters,

all the many things we box or toss because

they’re meaning less than those

we save. And yet I do not save enough

and seek forgiveness when I reject

blue-flowered china that she loved.

This is the hardest thing,

this letting go of oh so many things

that I imagine would bring her back to me

in momentary magical connection.

This is the hardest thing:

Swift efficiency. Get-it-done.

Let-it-go. Clear-it-out. It’s-only-stuff. And yet

this is the hardest thing.

This. Letting. Going. Going.

Gone.

And now I realize I have lied. This was the hardest thing: locking the door to my mother’s apartment, leaving the key inside, passing the “apartment for rent” sign outside her building, and knowing that I will never again go back to mom’s.

Who and what do you remember?

My mother is a poem/I’ll never be able to write,/though everything I write/is a poem to my mother. • Sharon Doubiago

I miss thee, my Mother!  Thy image is still/The deepest impressed on my heart. • Eliza Cook

* Please note: Cutting and pasting from this version of Word will not allow me to format the poem as I wrote it. The doublespacing is not mine. Drat and blast computers that think they know what I want. They do not.

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I’m Sorta Vampiric: I Want To Suck Your Blood, But Only To The Surface Of Your Skin Where It Will Leave A Bruise And Let The World Know You Are Mine

October 27, 2010

When other little girls wanted to be ballerina dancers, I kind of wanted to be a vampire.
• Angelina Jolie

I wanted to be a trapeze artist. I loved the shiny, sparkly costumes I wore for ballet and tap recitals and I remember thinking that joining the circus would be a perfect way to continue wearing such loveliness as a grownup. Even when I was small, I knew I wasn’t interested in being a ballerina—it just didn’t seem like fun—its seriousness and the patterned perfection of its movement sucked the joy out of my dancing.

I designed circuswear for myself, crayoning colorfully fanciful outfits of gossamer fabrics bedazzled with jewels. I practiced in a friend’s basement where her father had hung a trapeze from the ceiling. As I swung, head dangling, my fingers almost touched the floor and I can still remember the horror I felt one afternoon when I realized that real trapeze artists’ fingers were far from the solid safety of the circus ring. I did not like heights. I still do not. And I still wonder what I was thinking when I imagined that this was a possible career for me. I must have been blinded by the glittery gleam of sequins and rhinestones.

Some memories of childhood are vivid and easily recalled. Others are lost, but not necessarily forever. Italian poet and novelist Cesare Pavese said that the richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten. I call the things that evoke these forgotten memories evocateurs. It’s difficult to predict what will trigger recollection. Recently, it was an episode of Freaks and Geeks (currently airing on on IFC, the Independent Film Channel, and created by Paul Feig, executive produced by Judd Apatow, first airing on NBC during the 1999-2000 season) that brought back a flood of memories.

In the episode, Sam (John Francis Daley) breaks up with Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), the girl he’s pined over for many episodes. He’s finally become her boyfriend, but their love is not meant to be. She disdains the family heirloom necklace he’s given her (“How much did it cost?” she asks) and doesn’t find the movie he’s taken her to—The Jerk—funny at all. When she leans over in the theatre and gives him a hickey, he doesn’t know what’s happening, but he doesn’t like it. And that’s what let loose the flood of memory.

A hickey. When I was in grade school, I got a Mickey Mouse Club shirt. It was a white cotton turtleneck shirt with short sleeves, just like the one that Annette and the other Mouseketeers wore on the television show. My name was on the front and on the back was the circular MMC logo. I loved that shirt and wore it often, but I retired it when I started high school. Until the first time I got a hickey.

It was summer in southern California, much too hot to wear a high-necked sweater, and I was desperate not to go down to breakfast with my neck providing evidence of the previous night’s passion (tame passion, folks, I was the quintessentially “good girl” back then and my parents were ever vigilant for evidence otherwise). Desperately, I searched through the drawers for something to put on, rejecting scarves tied around my neck as too dressy for a day of babysitting and chores, and finally coming across my old friend. Thank goodness my mother and Aunt Mildred insisted on buying their children just about any kind of apparel in the largest size available so that we’d get plenty of wear from our you’ll-grow-into-it clothes. The extra large still fit. I pulled it on with my shorts and was saved from unpleasant inquiries. I hadn’t thought about that shirt in decades even though I’ve been immersed in memories related to my art exhibit entitled Flaming Youth and think often about adolescence for the courses I teach.

I’m currently doing a bit of vampire research for a paper and presentation I’m working on about the possibility of engaging in serious research about just about anything. This work is entitled, “Tootsie Pops and Toilet Paper, Vampires and Zombies: Reimagining Research through the Engaging and Creative Processes, Projects, and Products of The Collectory,” and another thought evoked by this F&G episode was how the process of the vampire’s bite and the hickey are similar, both marking the receiver as the property of the one who sucks the blood*. The paths of memory are twisted indeed.

Have you recalled a memory recently? If so, what triggered it? Write it down so you won’t forget. If not, spend a bit of time in the fields of remembrance and see what you find.

The existence of forgetting has never been proved. We only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them.
• Friedrich Nietzsche

* How do you give a hickey? Put your mouth against the side of the the person’s neck as though you are going to kiss it, leaving your mouth slightly open. Then suck the skin into your mouth, causing the blood vessels to break and leaving a red somewhat circular bruise. This is a fairly speedy process. I have no explanation for how to actually suck someone’s blood from their body. You’re on your own for that one.