The Experimental Memoir - Day 27
It was a foggy grey morning as I tried to get out of bed. Assorted aches and pains made it hard to get going and I was rushed when I finally got up. Our dog Wesley was playing outside. The neighbors’ dog, Avery had come over and the two were playing. This morning, a third dog was in the yard, an English Mastiff belonging to some other neighbors. I showered quickly and headed off to church.
On the way, I listened to a segment on the radio about a man who had lost most of his short term and long term memory. He had been an accomplished musician and researchers ran a set of experiments to find that while his ability to remember many things had been drastically diminished, his ability to remember music was only slightly impaired. They spoke about using this to help him put back together parts of his life, such as musical reminders to take medication or musical associations with certain people. This made me think of Peter and the wolf.
For the past month, I’ve been writing a lot about memory. I haven’t talked so much about remembering things other than words, events and facts, other that a brief literary reference to remembering a Madeleine. I’ve spoken about how people have complemented me on my memory and asked if I had a photographic memory. In many things, I do have a strong memory of facts and events, but my memory is not photographic, and I’ve had difficulties memorizing things by rote.
Musical themes are a different type of memory. They come back at odd times. The playful theme from Peter in the Wolf comes back to me as I write this. There is a song, by David Mallett that comes to mind as I write this as well. It starts off
I knew this place, I knew it well,
Every sound and every smell
The song leads me to another song, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer’s “Gentle Arms Of Eden”. The sounds and smells as memories of home.
One year, my spring term in college started on the Monday after Easter. I rode with some classmates from Connecticut out to Ohio. We stopped at lunch for our Easter Dinner, surrounded by truckers at a truckstop in the middle of Pennsylvania. I remember the colored Easter Egg that came with the meal. It was the first time I had dinner on a major holiday away from home. It seemed somehow bleak; incomplete.
My mind wandered to Easters at home. The small colored wicker basket filled with artificial green plastic grass, on which were placed various candies. I remembered one Easter when while we were at Church, our big white Samoyed dog, got into the basket. When we got home, he was multicolored in many pastels shades. It was disappointing to lose the candy, but it was funny as well. I thought that perhaps what was missing at the truckstop was the familial, but I now think there was something else missing.
Years later, Kim and I spent our first Thanksgiving together. We had been dating for about five months. Half way through that time, Kim’s mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. No one seemed up for the big traditional Thanksgiving gathering at Kim’s grandparent’s house. Kim and I went up to New Hampshire and had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at an Inn in Vermont. The food was very good, but there was also something missing there. In that case, what was missed most was Kim’s mother and the big family gathering around her. Yet there was also something else.
It came home to me this Thanksgiving. Kim’s parents had just returned from a trip abroad, and were not up for Thanksgiving dinner there. So, we had Thanksgiving dinner at a small local diner. This is a diner that Kim’s family has gone to for ages, and is one of the first places Fiona ate out at, as well as being the place she has probably gone out to eat more often than any other place.
The dinner was good; nothing to complain about but nothing to rave about either. Again, something was missing. I didn’t realize what it was until we had home baked Thanksgiving dinner a couple days later. Walking in the house, you were overwhelmed by the smell of the turkey that had been baking in the oven for hours, mixed with the whiff of pumpkin pies that had been baked earlier. Memories are more than just thoughts and words. They are sounds and smells.
At dinner this evening, I spoke with Fiona about music. We talked about key signatures and time signatures. We looked at staves and notes and talked about their names.