At semi-regular intervals, she spoke to save her life, or something like it.
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
There was a time in my life when I was praised for my memory. It seemed that I could remember things as a child that I should not have remembered-- like the house of my infancy, of which there are no pictures. I still have those memories, though they are mostly about light and little else. Sometimes objects, for instance, the colored candles, red, yellow and the avocado green so popular in the late '60's, which my mother would burn and then fold the top outward while the wax was hot, so that they took on the shape of strange mushrooms. Perhaps she found this idea in a women's magazine? I'd rather think she did it on some sculptural impulse, liking the feel of the hot wax's mutability in her hands.
There were the long panel paintings in the hall that dwarfed me, painted with a palette knife on canvas so they took on the feel of scabbed flesh. They were painted by a woman who suicided.
Beige walls, always evening.
But my earliest memory, though I know it is mine, seems to belong to anyone. I am on a blanket of some sort with bunnies or bears-- some cartoonish, marshmallowy creature, the name and nature of which I don't know at the time. It's blue, though of course I also lack the name for this. I am on the grass, and it is green, though green without a name is brighter, because it is new. And there is light, a bright, happy sunlight. The memory of this light, and its purity, reassures me that the early 1970's were not as yellowed as they appear, given that most of my memories of the time have been informed by photographs and films-- which seem translated in differing shades of taupe. And it also tells me that happiness becomes more difficult with age. In the memory, I am with my grandmother. She sits beside me, my father's mother, who is dead now. She wishes me well, and it is a simple thing. I can feel it. Because it is simple, it is the first wish of another that I remember, though no doubt my mother and father loved me first, it's her love that I remember most solidly, because it is not mixed with hope and fear, as I imagine the love of my parents to be.
Now that I am older, I forget all sorts of things-- the names of friends in high school, the names of teachers. Books or movies and whether I've really read or seen them. Recently, I found a journal I kept at the end of my teens with a list of lovers' names. Even with the names, it was difficult to remember some of them-- why they'd been considered worthy to be written there, or what we'd done together-- why I even thought it important to keep track. I'd like to think it was some impulse anticipating loss, a safeguard against the inevitable mental house cleaning. But it was probably a kind of scoring, the equivalent of little marks above the bed post, or, even, of a prisoner counting days, counting men, counting on being old enough to be free of that burden--to love, to really be wanted-- some day.