I should have done it ages ago. But I wouldn’t and I couldn’t. Tattered copies of Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World crammed between Mrs. Dalloway and The Aenid. The lumpy lovingly handmade paper mache cat perched next to a Nambe bowl. A bubble wand safely stored with the Wedgewood. The Kindergarten art elementary art show winner displayed with the same pride as the Audubon print. My world is swirled with touch points of memory wherever I look. I’ve kept it all very close.
We tend to think of memory as a snapshot in time, don’t we? We tell ourselves the same soothing, wonderful stories again and again. We need them, we need them so badly as every day we’re carried further and further way from points in time.
With rising panic we keep reaching back and back, our vision blurring into the distance. We could forget! What if we forget? And then what?
*a flattened box of Maizecorn tucked into the bookshelf from the first game at The Big House we attended all together.
*Three individual copies of Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs (one for each), a book read so many times that the two of us were certain the text was stamped into our being for all eternity.
*a very small pair of thick-lensed, gold-rimmed spectacles, for one who was squinty and bookish even in third grade.
*The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, Hot Wheels version.
*A gallon-sized jug of green Tabasco Sauce, long finished.
*a golden bowl, filled to the brim with yellowing paper fortunes.
On a whim, I dig all the way to the bottom. And they are still there.
On Sunday night we are all together at a Chinese restaurant like days of old. Plates of steamed dumplings, sizzling platters of exotic vegetables, mound after mound of white rice. Everything but fortune cookies.
When they were very small it was a conceit of mine that whatever they would ask for I would be able to pull magician like from my bag, as If I were always ready to be an audience member for Let’s Make a Deal. Playing cards, tiny cars, bagels, you name it. I was always prepared.
Once more, for the sake of memory. From my bag I brought out their very first fortune cookie fortunes, decades old, carefully marked with their names and the year.
If I think back in time I can no longer remember what they were wearing or what the weather was like or what was on TV the nights they first opened those cookies. But I wonder, what if memory is meant to be malleable, less like a snapshot and more like a Cezanne, the image diffuse and changeable and endlessly lovely?
I can’t remember back clearly so many years. But do know the looks of surprise and love on their faces when they each slipped those old fortunes into their wallets. For safe keeping, of course.