They don’t know where memories are stored.
Well, that’s incorrect. They know that they’re not stored anywhere. Memories are like time, a dimension of our bodies that don’t seem like a dimension at all. We move through time, like we move through air, with seconds flowing past us, as we walk, hand in sweaty hand, to the bus stop. And we store memories, sensations, sweat and impatience and cold and the smell of leaves and the light cast at that late November afternoon slant through the red trees, in our bodies.
And they come back to us, with a sensation. We smell leaves and our heart begins to race with expectation, the memory of running and jumping into piles. We feel the cold wind, and suddenly, in our minds and our bodies we feel sixteen, sitting on a porch with our best friend in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the longest, strongest wind blowing us for what felt like forever. It’s there. It’s in us.
I’m always thinking about what my experience will look like as a memory. I try to make things bigger, hold longer, turn the music up louder when I want to remember it, when I want to hold it. I amplify the sensations hoping that they’ll leave a deeper impression, a lasting glow, a feeling in my skin. I smell my kids all the time. I want to hold it in my olfactory nerves, the memory of their scent. I want to keep it in me. I know I can’t. I know I will forget things.
And this is the hardest part of being human.
I didn’t know that parenting would be so much about grieving. I didn’t know adulthood would be so much about longing. I grieve not having babies. Those days are gone, and I don’t remember as much as I want to remember. And with that knowing, with that awareness of how I forget, I worry that I’ll forget what’s happening now. I’ll forget the way Elliot asks me questions and races to help me cook. I worry that I’ll forget what their hands feel like in my hand. I ache, as they happen, with the pain of the lost memory. My nephews are amazing men, growing and becoming these outstanding human beings. But I grieve the loss of the time when they would snuggle with me, when I tucked them in, when they kissed my cheeks. Somehow I feel it more with the boys. I still get more of the girls. Or maybe I understand more of their experience and so I just feel like I get more of them. But the boys, they become something I don’t understand. Men. Elusive and hidden and guarded. I don’t like it. And yet I do.
There must be a word, in some language, for the this ache, this simultaneous joy and grieving.
I found the word saudade in Portuguese.
“It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or deeply melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.”
But it’s not so grim. It’s more beautiful than that. It’s a feeling with a glow around it.
It might also be finfugal that I’m feeling.
“hating endings; or someone who tries to avoid or prolong the final moment of a story, relationship, or some other journey.”
But the problem with the clinging, the problem with lingering too long on what is lost, is missing out on what you have. Here it is, this new moment, full of all its fullness. And that shift in thinking, it amplifies the glow. It shines the light on the silver lining.
I remember, from my Japanese Values class, wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic value of appreciating the beauty of transience. It is placing a greater value on the decaying flower more than the full bloom because it brings to mind the fact that beauty, and inasmuch life itself, is temporary, changing and impermanent. Wabi-sabi, as I understand it, is rejoicing in the nature of change, celebrating the ache, and welcoming what is to come.
It comes this time of year, when the leaves have fallen and the year starts to close. Wabi-sabi is, for me, Novembering.
So today, when I rush to the bus stop and then off to swimming and back home to scramble together some dinner, I’m going to notice the leaves flying behind the cars, dancing. I’m going to listen to the splashing water. I’m going to feel the heat of the water in the YMCA shower and listen while the three little people laugh about privates. I’m going to try to just feel the glow and not try to cling too much, and not try to rush too fast and just be in the painful, longing, wonderful, sticky, shining, aching beauty of life. I'm going to November.
It goes fast. And we only get one go.