19. (Memoir Madness)
I’ve delved into my own memory many times and in doing so, I came to a place where I wondered about memory itself and how trustworthy it really is. How is it that some moments stand out like snapshots, while others are completely gone? How is it that years and portions of time can be divided by events with few details remaining during the in between spaces beyond mere images of blurred faces and buildings and rooms and trees?
Music evokes memories, for me, as do certain smells. They are the kind of memories that strike your senses unconsciously and seem more real, more alive, somehow. Yet, how many of them are actually True?
I do not know, but I often wonder.
I can write of my first vivid memory, an adjudication for Grade 1 Piano in the Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada. I believe I was 6 or 7, though I can’t quite recall. In the Conservatory, I would spend a year of weekly lessons with my piano instructor learning different pieces from baroque to 20th Century, arpeggios, scales, and chords, all in preparation for a test at the end of the year. 30 minutes a day as a small child, a minimum of an hour as a teenager. Practicing in slow repetition to the beat of the metronome, over and over again, until the muscle memory was in tact and the notes were played without reading and my heart found its place in the sound. All for a piece of paper that says, you can play, we validate you, welcome to our club.
My first initiation was at a church. There I was, little me, all by myself in a giant room. Cathedral ceilings that stretched for miles, a person behind a desk with a paper and pen, and a piano that sat below an altar dwarfed in size against the brass of the pipe organ and stained-glass walls. Awe. I felt awed, and so very, very, small.
The memory freezes in that moment, and how much of this is exact, I will never be certain. I did complete my test though and received my very first passing grade and certificate into the musical club that was my youth’s dream. I wonder if I’d recognize that church in reality, if I ever found it again. Would it seem as infinite as the space in my memories eye? I wonder.
This is where memory can get tricky, I have a rather before and after 19 mind when I think of my youth. In reality everything I remember as being 19 was the duration of about 3 years and how that happens, is beyond me. Maybe my memory isn’t normal, but what is normal, really?
Before 19 was youth. A place filled with freedom, a mother who said you can be anything you want to be, salt of the earth family and a community that took care of each other- a different idyllic World then existed after 19. I grew up in the bush, quite literally. A town of 300 and millions of pine, oak, and white birch trees with lakes glistening behind every bend. Cartier, Ont. Canada. Home, sweet, beautiful, home.
It doesn’t really exist anymore though, you see. It’s just a space in my memory, it stopped existing at 19.
It’s strange to look back at these moments in time in your mind from a room you are in now, older, hopefully wiser, but you’re not really certain because of the tricky parts. That’s when it is a blessing to have always been a writer, because you find things. Lost journals. Lost letters. Lost poems. Living imprints of how you felt, once upon a time:
Me at 19
I love that girl. In thinking of my first memory for this writing prompt, and then considering memory and history at all, a strange thing happened to me. I realized that I spent so many years of my life after 19 burying, denying, escaping, fitting in, seeking new clubs and someone, anyone, to validate me, that I deceived myself and I lost sight of that girl’s heart. I flirted, courted, and married the dark. Then other memories and events occurred that I could never fit in a space such as this, and now I see things differently.
I don’t need a paper, and I don’t need a club; I play every single minute of my day and I validate me.
The tricky parts, they are a thread of connected light in my new eyes. The parts we bury, the parts we re-write and seek to reconcile in the outside World, judging, labeling, blaming, separating, “ism-schism games,” over and over again, they are what define who we are. They are what shape our lives, society, and The World.
Is this The Truth? I wonder.
I’m not certain, I’m still delving into all the things that make me me, but most moments these days, I’m back in that church everywhere I go, feeling like little me awed by the miracle that is humankind’s memoir. Ready to play the piano except it is no longer a test and all of the practicing, the images of faces, rooms and trees, they are bright with new dreams which I breathe and create daily.
Home, you see, I have found in my mind’s memories before and after 19, is and always has been, my heart.