Besides having three sets of company in three weeks, I developed writer’s block trying to express the sense of simultaneous time. Today is our 30th anniversary, so time to finish this post.
Last month, we went to Charleston to get our son, who took the Cardinal from Chicago. In the spring of 1981, I had taken the same train from Chicago to Charleston, to do research in West Virginia. I stayed at my brother’s house on Smith Creek that night, and that fall we had Thanksgiving there, because his daughter Kate had just been born the week before. Saturday, we went to her wedding. Kate’s mother, not much younger then than Kate now, was my maid of honor at our wedding, and Kate’s brother, now a tall ex-Marine and IT security guy, was an 18-month-old who stole the show.
Driving home, I noticed as we passed the Amma exit on I79 how long it had taken to come from Cross Lanes. The last time I saw my mother was at the Amma exit, just after Christmas the year Kate was born. We had spent our last night in West Virginia at my brother’s, and realized I had left my dulcimer, a wedding gift from our best man, at my parents’. Mother agreed to meet us at Amma with it. The last thing she said to me, a family joke from a line I had in a Brownie play when I was 6, was “Children are a burden.”
There is an old memory technique, going back at least to the Roman orators, of associating things to be remembered with places – the architectural details of a room, the houses along a well-known street. Without effort, places and ceremonies in our lives become layered with memories. A wedding, a train station, a country road, are layered with old memories and meanings, as well as the seeds of future weddings and journeys. Because my family has been in these hills for many generations, and the stories have been preserved and handed down, the layers go back to weddings where the groom rode four days to Winchester to bring back a wedding dress, and the hills hold memories from the first clearing of the forest to my mother’s college swimming parties, besides all my own.
Is now, a moving picture constructed in our heads from what we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel, that different from then, a moving picture constructed in our heads from memory?