Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vivid Fragments

I have memories from my childhood that are so pointless, so mundane, I wonder what glue holds them in my brain.
Of course I remember where I was sitting in my pre-algebra class the morning the space shuttle blew up or the night that I was rushed to the hospital with acute appendicitis unable to stand up straight no matter how hard I tried, or the day my brother roller skated into the back of our parked Volkswagen hatchback, the tailpipe piercing his hand. I remember those days for obvious reasons.  Pain and shock are great memory etching tools.  But I also remember some pretty mundane, unremarkable events with crystal clear vividness, complete with their original sights, sounds and smells.  They are from 25+ years ago and they stick with me.  Here are a few that are memorable, with no right to be that way.

I am drinking grape Shasta soda sitting on a hill with my family in Waverly Park in Thousand Oaks waiting for the 4th of July fireworks to start.  I can feel the thick grass poking my legs and the smooth, sugary lukewarm cool of the soda going down my throat as I sit in the near darkness waiting for the show to begin. We are staring silently at the lights down the hill, the ones coming from the area of the mall, where the fireworks will be set off. I don't remember exactly what the year was, but I know it is one specific year and one specific moment.  It is not a conglomerate of all my 4ths on this hill.  It is this one time. 

I remember the day my foot slipped off the pedal of my ten speed bike as I was peddling furiously and it swung around and caught me in the Achilles tendon.  I remember exactly where I was on Moorpark Road when it happened.  I remember the exact spot. About three feet before the curb.  Weeds on my left. Cars going by on my right.  The pedal slipped many times before and after that moment, but I don't remember those times.  I remember THIS time.  This time didn't hurt more than the other times.  I didn't crash my bike or cry or even pull over.  I just remember saying, "Ack!" and then riding on to Burt's Pharmacy for my 10 cent candy.

I remember showing up for soccer practice at Conejo Creek Park, walking out to the field with my light green plastic water bottle with the yellow top, the water inside frozen.  The grass was barely visible - trampled low, more yellow than green and there were dust pits all over the field.  There was a giant one in front of each goal.  I remember the exact field we were practicing on, the first one, closest to the parking lot and I remember that one of my team-mates was playing a song on a boombox by the 80's pop group "ABC."  No, it wasn't "How to be a Millionaire."  We all remember that one.  It was "Fifteen Story Halo."  It was never a hit.  I don't remember getting there or practice, I just remember this moment of walking up.  Maybe a fragment in time of about one minute?  Vivid.  Why so vivid?  I don't know.  But I have a lot these.  Here are few more.  They're not boring (at least I hope not!  If they are, you've probably stopped reading my now!) but they aren't exactly riveting either.   This is precisely why I find the fact that they are memorable so baffling.

I remember riding in the back seat of my best friend's mom's light blue Cadillac. I had been in it many times, but this one time I remember specifically.  We were headed down Victory Boulevard in Reseda and Amy Grant was in the tape deck (cassette, not 8 track) and "Lead Me On" was playing.  The seats were a soft velvety blue.  Her Mom was driving the speed limit.   Nothing exciting happened.  No accident.  No argument.  No getting stuck in the drive-thru car wash.  I just remember sitting there at that specific moment as we cruised down the road through the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  Listening.  Running my hands on the velvet square near the door handle. Squinting in the bright sun piercing through my window. We had just left a sewing/fabric store...I forget the was on Sherman Way near Lindley Avenue.  When we were inside the store, the song "That's What Friends Are For" was playing.  I don't remember the store, or what my friend's mom bought, but I remember the song.  OK, so two memories and two songs... Maybe music helped solidify them in my head? 

I remember another time in a car.  This time it was my parent's yellow 1972 Pinto.  (You remember the kind that would blow up if you rear ended them?)  We did get rear-ended in that car (it didn't blow up thankfully) and of course I remember that time.  My sister and were in the backseat rating movies on a scale from 1 to 10 inside a notebook.  Everything in the back window --books, paper, pencils--came down on top of us. My brothers head hit the dashboard.  My Dad got a bit of whiplash. That would stand out in any child's mind.  But I remember a time when we were riding home from school.  We were almost home, rolling along on Calle Jazmin, just a few yards before we would turn on to our street, Calle Clavel.  I remember passing the cream colored house on our right and thinking to myself, "I am going to be 10 this weekend. I am finally going to be double digits."  That moment of recognition while sitting on hard vinyl in the backseat of the bomb on wheels is etched.  Permanently.  No music this time.
Even the ones with music, those memories are well...hardly worth remembering.  They are not weddings or birthdays or my first cat dying or a family member's illness.  I have those.  These are just un-remarkable points in time that have flashed and burned into my mind and for no apparent reason that I can discern.  They are like the pictures you accidentally take with your camera when you are grappling with it in your hands and trying to position it on your subject.  Oops! Didn't mean to take that one folks!  OK, everyone, let's try that again!  These days, you just hit delete and move on.  Or even back in the day when you had to WAIT for your pictures, you would get the pictures home and just laugh at the random shot you took of some lady's behind at Sea World.  I can't delete the random memories in my head and just save the ones I want.  They're permanently in my hard drive.  They appear to have no real reason to remain, no real common thread, no lesson, no warm fuzzy, no warning.  But somehow they all fit together to form my past.  They are a menagerie of simpler times.  Ah, yes, the good old days.  Where my greatest worry was forgetting my new O.P. jacket at church.  Or getting a cramp in my side after drinking too much water at halftime. Or stepping on a bee hiding in the clover when playing in the sprinklers.
These vivid fragments remind me I have so much to look back on and be thankful for.  Even the memories that don't seem to mean much, are happy ones.  I don't have memories of angry fists, or looming shadows or loud voices like so many others do.  I had a childhood that was full of memories worth cherishing.   I am eternally grateful to my parents for all they provided.  We grew up "poor as church mice" as my mother used to say, but I would never know it.  We may have worn donated clothes, drank powdered milk and relied on the generosity of church folks and family members for school supplies or summer camp, but our house was rich in faith, opportunity, creativity, music and laughter.  Teachers by trade, my parents taught the students in their classrooms and their children.  I have distinct memories of all they taught me - love of language, reading, music and God and the ways they demonstrated their work ethic, talent, sacrifice, and faithfulness to God and each other.  On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for them and for all the memories worth keeping. Even the ones that just seem to be taking up space.

God's blessings to all and Happy Thanksgiving.

-Hope A. Horner, 2012
Twitter:  HopeNote

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