There is a small white porcelain figurine of a fairy on my writing desk. She lies on her side, on top of a green leaf, with her chins resting on her hands, her tiny legs waving in the air, her wings spread behind her. She is a picture of abandon joy, an innocent carefree being, looking out into the world. I had given this to my daughter when she was little. She had it on her shelf for a while and when she moved out, I inherited this, along with a couple of her other childhood items. They all came wrapped in protective newspaper in a box in our moving van when we moved to France. I did not get a chance to open the box for a long time. Then last month, I finally pulled the box, which after moving from room to room had ended up below the piano (it seemed like a good place at that point and after some time I did not even notice it anymore). I cut through the tape, which by now had become porous, and opened the box. Wrapped in paper, there were so many tiny objects that had once stood on the shelves in my daughter’s room. It was opening a box of memories. There were photo frames with photo collages of my daughter and her school friends, all smiling and winking and making funny faces. Even to look at them now, I found myself chuckling, on my fours, below the piano in a now distant and new place. I could exactly see where these photo frames were placed, above her desk and on the shelves my husband had put up on the wall. There were photos, lots of them, her certificate of horse riding, little figurines of angels and fairies, incense sticks, images of Ganesha, and of course, her paintings. Images of abstract pyramids made of shoes, a room with tables and chairs all done in pencil Escher-style, a girl’s face painted in fierce vibrant colours with a pair of sunglasses pulled up on her hair. I was back, standing in her room, looking out over the balcony, over the lush and overgrown garden out towards the very distant blue Rheingau mountains. With each wrapped treasure, I was unwrapping a piece of memory that connected me to her beyond time and space. I stretched my hand across the years to touch something already in the past.
Memory is moment-defying, it does not remain within the shackles of the analytical progression of time. In this complex mechanism that we call humans, it is memory that is truly ours, it is our personal space to connect and remember. Not all of what we remember, or choose to remember, are good. Many are hurtful, painful, sad, angry. But each of us also carry within us, sparks of moments when life was good, when life felt whole and when our life was touched by an explicable sense of connection. Spiritual leaders tell us to see memory as a stumbling block, something to overcome, for where we are headed there is no memory, no past, no future, only the present. No doubt, they are right. But for now, I rejoice in being human. I rejoice in remembering. I embrace the connection I have to my past and to others who have walked with me. But most of all, I rejoice being alive.
Today, I remember.
Today, I connect.
I remember crying at the kitchen table for months,
hurtful moments of rejection,
walking out of the house on a cold winter night with no place to turn to,
the love that I did not receive,
the support that failed me in need,
the fear that was ridiculed,
the anxiety in a new country, new place, new people,
I remember my grandmother praying, facing the sun,
my bike ride where I fell and scraped my knees,
the palm trees as they whizzed past when we drove across the roads on our way to winter picnics,
the tiger in the zoo, while we munched peanuts from a conical paper bag,
orange peels lying around my books as I studied for exams,
birthday cakes with layers of cream and chocolate,
my son and his nervous three-year old fingers pressing the ivory keys of the piano,
the sun shining through new leaves on an early summer morning in the Taunus forests,
Chagall painted blue windows in a church in Mainz.
Today, I remember.
Today, I connect.