Feels like spring today in NYC. The kids are playing basket ball in the alley. I’ve got all the windows open and once again the afternoon is full of the sounds of birds, basket ball, people gathered on Michael’s stoop.
The change of seasons is always a time when memories are awakened. I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s novel “The Museum of Innocence” and it’s themes, of obsessive love and the collecting of memories, are resonating. Today Doe and I climbed a hill in Morningside Park covered in daffodils. I was aware of how my own body is a museum of memories, although I close off the rooms. I’ve locked the doors to whole wings and forgotten they exist. But maybe their scent escapes through the windows or the floorboards in spring. As we climbed the hill, I felt happy and mournful, hopeful yet reconciled. Feelings mixed together.
I could sense the rooms in my museum of memories. I could feel their existence, as much as I mostly forget them. Bits of conversation came to me. D listening to me play “How to Save a Life.” He says “Why that song?” And without missing a beat, I lie and tell him I happened to hear it that day. Had he really forgotten the summer day we listened to that song over and over? Did he really not remember the convertible speeding along Deerfield Road with the top down, singing along with it, then playing the song again and again? How could the memory have so seared into me yet be lost to him?
Of course the day of the song and the convertible happened years ago, and even the conversation that followed is a year old. Still, this memory came to me today, climbing up the hill in Morningside Park with Doe. It took seconds to fill me, play itself, then pass. Then my attention was taken over by the brand new daffodils. Some were just poking through the dark soil, but some, in sunny spots, were already up and fully in bloom. How they lifted my heart. The world is so beautiful!
The museum of memories. The idea is capturing my imagination today. This knowledge that our bodies, our brains, contain everything we’ve experienced. No wonder we grow numb, no wonder we forget. How to live with it all at the same time? Impossible! Better to let the rooms gather dust. Better to live in the magnificent present where everything is immediate and available to appreciate and enjoy.
There is a delicious thrill, though, in the way memories mingle with the present. They float through us, giving the present depth and color. They shape our ability to go forward.
In “The Museum of Innocence,” the protagonist fills his museum with everything his former lover has touched. Her teacup, four thousand cigarette butts, endless mementos documented in page after page.
In my real life museum, I have collected no fewer items, although they are stored as haphazardly as paper stuffed in cabinets, and socks in drawers. There is no order to them. They are stored in a chaos of joy and hurt. Endless rooms of memories pressing against my heart in spring as Doe and I climb and climb.