• Shana Ritter

the wonder of memory

the wonder of memory

Yesterday I was playing zoo with my three year old grandson and he stopped in the midst of placing a yak in the coral reef and said “at my party Hayes jumped into the pool and I did too and there was a big splash”. He got a look of rapture on his face and I could see he was having a visceral memory of that moment.

His birthday was almost six months ago and it is mid November now. We are playing on the floor of his playroom on one of the first really cold days of the year, it is already dark out and he is in footed, fleece pajamas. Our conversation, before the moment of memory, was about animals and zoos and then suddenly he is splashing in the pool on a hot early summer day with a friend he has not seen in months.

I asked him if he could hear the water and feel it on his face, and he responded “yes! it splashed in my eyes” he laughed.”  

 I knew he was reliving the moment and said, “That’s your memory working”.

“It’s my brain” he jumped up and down, “it’s in my brain”.  

A whole new playroom to enter, a new landscape, a geography we can call up to inhabit. Which, when its yours to enter into or leave at your own will, is a wonder.  

As a writer I draw from visceral memories; childhood east coast lilacs, glints of sun breaking on the pond, a shooting star in the New Mexico night, scallops served in the first fancy restaurant I ever went to, 40 years ago. I still see the waiter filling the water glasses each time my glass was half way empty, the way candle light reflected as the water settled. 

My grandson refers to anything that happened in the past as yesterday, and it often feels like that to me, like it was just yesterday.

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