The waves pounded the shore relentlessly as we found our way between piles of drift wood, slick protruding boulders, and small ponds of brackish salt water. The tide was coming in quickly. Hand in hand we trekked across the perimeter of Acadia National Park, inhaling deeply the salty breezes that have calmed and renewed us on many an ocean shore across the years. But this time it was different. Something happened.
She remembers it as if it was yesterday, though it was twenty years ago. I don’t remember it at all, other than that we were at the shore together that day. She has carried it all these years as a painful reminder of how one person can hurt another. I acknowledge my capacity to betray and wound another, but cannot even imagine having said what she remembers. She said I said… I can’t imagine saying it, even if I felt it. She said I said… I can’t imagine writing it now.
Memories have such incredible power to shape and create the stories we carry with us, stories that we may never tell because they don’t seem possible or true. I want to remember, or do I? My earliest memory is the acrid smell of the chicken coop adjacent to our backyard when I was three or four years old in Bourbon, Indiana. There was a horseracing track back there too. That’s it. That’s all I remember. But there must be more. My fondest early memory, a memory I hold tenderly, is… I don’t know what it is. I panic.
I remember being carried out to the back seat of the warm car on more than one occasion in the early morning darkness, snuggling into the blankets along with my younger brother, Tom. We were about to set out on another family road trip. I have good memories of those vacations together. I remember finding my dog, Spotty, dead in the street one day while walking to my piano lesson. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. I remember playing “eenie annie over”. I must have been old enough to throw a ball over the garage, though I never had a really good arm. I doubt whether I am remembering this correctly, so I “google” it. Indeed there is such a kid’s game documented with multiple links and references. I wish I could google all my memories to verify them. Or have a personal Wikipedia where I could just look them up.
I share many memories of time spent with those I love, most especially Mary. At another time, on another shore – this one in Costa Rica – we hiked down a very steep and slippery precipice to a remote, sandy cove, warmed by the intense sun. Effortlessly, we stripped and merged. I remember how warm and close and intimate we felt.
But what about that which I don’t remember? Or how can my memory be so different from that of others? My story is my story. That’s all I’ve got. I need to remember that.