I woke up at 3 a.m. to find myself feeling my way through my closet dreaming about feeling my way through some other mess. This reminds me of a dream I had 12 years ago in which I was peeing over the side of a bathtub and realized I was actually peeing in bed. The problem was I was in a friend’s bed in her parent’s home in England and wearing her father’s sweatpants. Guess that’s what happens after a 15 hour travel day and lots of caffeinated drinks.
“Dad, weren’t you hear for a work trip years ago,” I asked after he picked me up from the San Diego airport.
“Yes, about 20 years ago.” No other comment.
I remembered how much I romanticized his work travels and the time he brought me back a t-shirt from Kansas City (it was from the NCAA Final Four tournament, which he now promises me he never went to so likely he just picked it up on sale in the airport). He really disliked those work trips.
I thought I heard C’s voice today. Well, actually my body first heard her voice and then my brain registered it. I found my body tightening up and my heart-rate pick-up like I’d just taken a prednisone pill. Thank goodness it wasn’t her. Instead it was an older woman about her age.
So I took on this project a year ago today. My goal was to write about a memory each day that is triggered during the day through some association (sound, smell, visual image, quotes, touch, etc.), a sort of writing exercise based on Marcel Proust’s genius description of involuntary memory in Remembrance of Things Past (A la recherche du temps perdu). While some of my posts I’ve dug deep to find an associated memory with something from my day, there are other posts that are descriptions of involuntary memories that have erupted from the depths of my mind. Sometimes the trigger is unclear to my rationale but none the less it exists, even if unexplainable.
I can honestly say that this has been the best resolution I’ve made to myself. It’s made me practice the art of writing again with some successful nights in finding a voice and other nights of struggle. Some nights while writing I’ve sat here laughing to myself and other nights crying my eyes out. This project has encouraged me to pay attention to the pocket-size treasures of memories packed in sounds, smells and tastes we are often too much in a rush to recognize and enjoy. I’ve also come to realize that perhaps the daily rush in which we absorb ourselves is in part a protective mechanism, shielding us from painful and unresolved memories. Writing these posts has allowed me to connect with and often indirectly thank old friends by sending them the blog post in which I’ve written about them. It’s encouraged me to work through emotions tied to memories I’d bottled up and avoided. It has forced me to become more comfortable with putting my personal self “out there” despite parental reprimands (some of them deserving) for doing so. I now have almost 2 years of memories documented since it was an event each day (an often an “inbetween” moment) that triggered a memory. While my discipline waned on some days and I thus have some days to fill in based on notes scribbled on post-it notes and my calendar, I can say that I am proud of this accomplishment.
I went back to my Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces I used during my humanities class in Strasbourg with Dr. K. It was there in France during my sophomore study abroad that I read Proust for the first time. Here is a passage from Remembrance of Things Past (specifically Swan’s Way) I had underlined then that resonates with this project:
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
“Become aware of the tension in your jaw. Where is your tongue touching? Make sure your tongue is not at the roof of your mouth,” my yoga class instructor guided us at the beginning of class. Of course my tongue was pressing on the roof of my mouth. Why would I have come to yoga if I wasn’t in need of a little unwinding/destressing? Guiding my conscious to where precisely my tongue touched, I had a flashback of a recent kiss. It was my first experience with this kissing technique. Somewhere early on in this snogging session I felt the tip of my friend’s tongue touching the roof of my mouth. Interesting, I thought. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to a) be turned on by this or b) assume he had an extraordinarily long tongue and be grateful it wasn’t going down my throat (as I recall a college boyfriend’s tongue reaching). Was it peanut butter I had accidentally left on the roof of my mouth he was after? Regardless, this made for a somewhat pleasurable and amusing association at the beginning of class and I’m quite sure I had a smirk on my face during that vinyassa.
I had the opportunity to massage my father’s shoulders, back, neck, and arms this afternoon. He may be my dad but he’s not invincible, I was reminded. I could feel the stress related knots I was probably partially responsible for causing. I suppose somehow this opportunity was more meaningful after attending the visitation for my childhood friend’s father yesterday. Today I also received a message from an English friend telling me her father had just died this week. What a gift I had to work on my father!
Somehow massage seems to both a) allow memories to rise to the surface and b) make some more talkative. “Did I ever tell you about the time Uncle M (my dad’s “little” brother) spent most of the afternoon swimming on the bottom of the pool floor with a life jacket on? Grandma N (his mom) picked him up at the end of the day and noticed that it wasn’t that he was that good of a swimmer but rather his jacket was full of water,” dad told me. I laughed, imagining how incidents like this must have made my Uncle M into the Fighting Illini football player he became. Funny, his mother, Grandma N, had similarly verbalized reflections during her massage. She told me how she and her childhood friend Sally had worn the same wedding dress and how some 40 years later, her mom (my great grandmother) had rescued it from Sally’s mom’s yard sale.
Seeing the scar on his right deltoid reminded me of the time I was most worried about my dad. It was only the removal of a cyst but seeing your dad come home with a bloody bandage as a 6 year old, is enough to fear the worst. I think it was this “traumatic injury” he suffered that made us invent of the “TD” (tough daddy) t-shirt for him for father’s day, a t-shirt with the iron-on green letters “TD”. I’m sure there are other times when I should’ve been more worried about my father, but I never knew it. Either because I just wasn’t paying attention or because he just doesn’t complain….probably a combination of both.
He may still be a “Tough Daddy” to me, but often I forget my dad is real and vulnerable. I am reminded how blessed I am to have him with me today.