If you enjoy reading this blog, please visit to continue reading it.

The site is growing beyond the blog to include an online Boutique.

Drop in anytime!

click logo for artist information

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Beautiful Burden of Memory

Facebook has put me in touch with many people I had put out of my mind for a long time.  It’s been a blast reconnecting with people whose names and images conjure up memories that have also long since lain dormant.  This whole experience has brought up old angels and demons of thoughts, alliances and actions of my past.  

I find myself looking at old pictures, trying to remember people’s names from different camps, theatre experiences, group activities and travel, so I can search for them and see what they're up to.  There are still a few people with whom I would love to reconnect and still others I’ve “hidden” from view, but still honor as people who have, in one way or another, helped shape who I am.  People I’m sure won’t remember me, respond with memories I’ve lost or stories that take me back to the moment as if I’ve inhaled the vapors of a memory tonic.  

One of my best friends, who has long since become more like my brother than friend, refuses to join this growing network.  While I’d love to share some of the fun gimmicks and games on Facebook with him, he has been in my life for nearly 26 years so it hardly seems necessary.  He is still in Manhattan (in the apartment we leased together in 1992) and our lives have moved in different directions.  We don’t see each other or speak as often as we’d like, but he is still one of my oldest & dearest friends.  We have seen each other through every phase of life since the summer I turned 16.  

When we are together, I’ve been told, we can make others feel a bit lost in our conversation (he would say he sometimes gets lost when it’s just us talking, given my non-sequitor impulses).  All it takes is a word, a gesture, a look and we break out in that belly deep laughter that can make your sides ache.  Time and distance have not weakened this reality, I imagine in part because the memories we share are still so potent.  We have so many shared moments that words sometimes just get in the way.

One day, about 15 years ago, I had a thought that turned to a shudder.  I realized that this easy manner we share has to do with the fact that we shoulder the burden of memory, together.  When you know someone long enough this is bound to happen. The shudder I experienced that day came when I had that mortal moment of realization that one day one of us won’t be here anymore.  

Once one of us is gone, the burden of those memories is bound to become heavier.  Who will laugh at the otherwise empty gestures?  Or bite his bottom lip at the implication of a past indiscretion?  Who will put me in my place when my memory deviates from his memory of the same event?  Who will be my historic mirror, for better or worse?

I am using my friend as the example, but the same holds true for my first family with whom I have already shared a lifetime of memories and my now primary family whose broad shoulders are adding precious memories, daily.

The generations that are growing up with Facebook, and other yet to be conceived social utilities, will likely collect their “friends” as they move in whatever directions their lives take.  It’s an immediate, almost indiscriminate action, to add everyone they know to a list of “friends.”  Their names may fade in significance over time, but they will live on the list without need for any in-depth searching for old emails or trolling of memory for last names (maiden or married).  

My generation never imagined that once the events and experiences of our youth turned to memory, that we would be revisiting them in this manner.  Mistakes of our past could remained buried in the recesses of memory; exciting thoughts of our budding selves could be left to flower into a subtle smile at the mere thought.  High School reunions had some significance beyond just getting together; there was an element of surprise and conversations that caught us up on life’s milestones and details.  In this way, we shouldered the burdens of our own memories.

The world is changing so fast, who can predict what will come next or how it will affect the comfort zones in which we live.  So whether I’m on Facebook navigating a world I never imagined, laughing without obvious cause by a friend who glanced at me sideways, struggling with a Yoga pose I’ve done a hundred times or I’m standing in the moment of a fresh memory, I will take pause to breathe and roll my shoulders back and down.  

They must remain strong and supple to carry their life-long load.

1 comment:

  1. "Who will be my historic mirror..." what a perfect, perfect phrase. We probably often 'rewrite history' in order to feel more herioc, victimized, triumphant or whatever--it's a gift to have your friend to keep it on the 'non-fiction' shelf. You have such a wonderful way of speaking the truth about humanity!