For the last three nights, I’ve had recurring nightmares. I can never remember them when I wake up; I just know I don’t want to dream them again. When people ask me what my earliest memory is, I honestly can’t remember. I don’t think about past events often, and when I do I’m not trying to figure out if the chicken or the egg came first. This weekend my sister and I joked with our parents that our earliest memories were of them laughing at us.
Last night I watched one of my favorite films. I love it for its everyday nostalgic feel. Every person in the world can relate to You’ve Got Mail. That’s the secret of its success: memories are made of ordinary moments, not extraordinary ones.
I remember when I moved into my first apartment, knowing my duration there would be short. I worked hard to make sure that my space looked lived in. I had a vision of neutrals enlivened by pops of mismatched yet oddly welcoming colors. I ended up with dark, deep colors that matched but overpowered. I’ve learned to favor the “less is more” philosophy when it comes to decorating: bright, clean, and happy.
I remember my first sushi experience. I purposely ordered an appetizer and promptly ate all of it. Then I pretended to be full so that I would only have to eat one of the six sushi rolls on my plate. I enjoyed them enough that I actually looked forward to a sushi lunch the next day. But sushi leftovers cannot ever be appetizing.
I remember the wonder of my first day as a proofreader at the press where I work full-time now. The supervisor was busy with meetings so my first two hours were spent reading David Copperfield. One of the editors gave me a pink plastic cup filled with cold water. I swirled in the swivel chair as I wondered how I would endure a summer apart from my family and in the same city as Fishie. (Yes, he existed way back then.) Four years later, I recognize that summer as God’s preparation and miraculous provision. But I also realize that the carefree gratitude too often has been left behind in favor of hurried mornings and grumpy, stressful deadlines. My next New Year’s resolution: take a deep breath; smell the air; walk to work; buy coffee; visit cafes; read books; appreciate living—scotch tape and sharpened pencils.
I remember the day I wanted to be swallowed by a hole, not because of embarrassment, but because of sadness. I thought the only way I could forget was to be forgotten. I had gone to bed early the night before. I had gotten up early the day of. I felt anger when I met the interns. I felt frustration when I learned the dance. I laughed when I made it through without falling over. And then I was sent home. And I knew that my life was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Did my dreams matter? Did bravery matter? Did hard work matter? After all, I am only one person in a world full of many more.
I remember the day I closed the page of the first chapter of my life. I closed the New Hampshire chapter. It was also in many ways merely an introductory chapter. Nevertheless, leaving my home of fourteen years was an end. I left it behind, and I can’t ever return. I don’t want to. My parents can reminisce with their New Hampshire friends about time gone by. But for me, time has gone by and has taken me along with it. While I sat in the middle of the minivan, dreading our arrival in Georgia, I sang along with Karen Carpenter while tears streamed down my cheeks. I thought I understood that Georgia would never be my home. What I only recently grasped was that New Hampshire never will be either.
I remember the feeling of impending rejection. Two years ago on Valentine’s Day, I made two dozen gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for Fishie. I never mentioned Valentine’s Day. But I told him that I had made him cookies and that I wanted to give them to him at our usual meeting time—1:00. I left work and went to meet him by the flower pots. He never came. I waited ten minutes for his car. It never came. I texted him to remind him about his cookies. He never texted back. The waiting seemed interminable, and the result should have been obvious even then. He did not care. But I did.
I remember an evening spent with three of my greatest high-school friends. My parents took us to a college promotional banquet where we played with our food, silverware, and napkins more than I ever had before or since. The banquet was an hour away from the boarding school so the three dorm girls had to spend the night. We got back long after curfew. And in that evening with the four of us NOT sleeping, we talked about inconsequential subjects: the day we first used a razor, our shoe size, the structure of our teeth, why we swore by our hair straighteners, and how long we thought it would be before we’d be married. I’ve definitely been single longer than any of us had thought.
I remember my favorite Thanksgiving. Two dorm girls spent the vacation with my family. I accidentally put a teaspoon of peppercorns in the mashed potatoes and spent a half-hour fishing them out. The girls tried to make an apple pie but forgot how much sugar they had mixed in the batter. We guessed that they used about three cups. We had to use the school’s mini bus in order to transport all of us to Manchester to go to the mall for black-Friday shopping. I don’t remember what I bought or what movies we watched, but I remember lots of laughter that Thanksgiving.
I remember friendships that transcend time: the friend I bonded with over a fear of taking the counselor swimming test; the friend I worked out with while guarding the campsite (we wore bright orange and our serious sunglasses); the friend I hitchhiked with to Greenville; the friend who walked with me over ten miles through the sketchy part of Greenville without our flashlights or cell phones; the friend who became my best friend in one day and who I’ve only seen on three separate occasions.
I remember being in preschool and having Mrs. Abrams for a teacher. One year she decided to make a video of the pre-school and after-school attendees. The first half of the video was of the preschoolers and their activities throughout the day, including the Indian powwows. During recess one girl tried to play with everyone, and no one paid any attention to her. But she kept saying over and over again, “And pretend that then somebody cooked me up.” The second half of the video was of the after-school attendees eating snacks and playing soccer . . . backwards. I had a crush on the fifth-grade soccer player. Not much has changed.
These are my memories. In themselves, they don’t amount to much. But put together, they become the foundation for who I am. And now while I sip on my flat white, I will listen to “Dream,” “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and “Remember.”