Who doesn’t have those earliest of memories that conflate, confound and consolidate that person looking across the rear view mirror. Those fragments of things that surely define what you’ve become without true context of where they fit into where you began. Life unreels as if through the gates of a shutter and somewhere along that simplex of exposures becomes an exercise in translation.
I remember precariously holding onto the rear screen door of my childhood home while watching my mother tend the rose garden that decorated our smallish backyard. Gazing through the framing screen into the warm morning sunlight rendered the scene with that gently soft focus vision that creates an idealization inside our memories. Clam diggers, the smell of laundry, crimson blossoms, a white blouse, tile floor, absence, expectation. I’m guessing I was three.
I remember precariously holding the edge of the basket as we lifted off wondrously from Kansas.
I remember distinctly the red velvet and gold gilt seat-back in front of me that I insistently bothered while enduring the showing of the film Oklahoma my mother must have decided I needed to experience. Why this made sense to anyone escapes me still. The chorus of “pretty little surrey with the fringe on the top” created a pavlovian reaction of disgust to singing movie characters that mostly endures to this day. I was probably not even six.
I remember distinctly how tall certain people seemed while others appear at eye level.
I remember gaping with astonishment and wonder the cool blue eyes and fierce environment created in some even grander theatre during the screening of Lawrence of Arabia. It was here I think my love of film was born and I remember Ali riding into view as an apparition of measured menace and the killing of Gasim as painful confusion. I expect I was around eight.
I remember gaping with astonishment and wonder the gold stars of our neighbors fallen brothers.
I remember venturing to our neighborhood theatre as we frequently did and having an experience that defied expectation and altered narrative forever. I watched befuddled and bewildered as Merkin Muffley, Group Colonel Mandrake and Dr. Strangelove argued with themselves amidst the comedy of civilization ending. Things were different now, I must have been around thirteen.
I remember venturing alone the first time without answers to all the unseen questions.
I remember the insanity of uncertainty as the village was leveled in psychedelic splendor for the ending of Apocalypse Now. We sat in horrified happy wonder at the spectacle of man’s ability to defy the better angels we still desired. We stayed through another viewing then walked back to our dorm. I was 21.
I remember the insanity of uncertainty as life began to meander forward, desperately attempting to regain some foothold in the fantasy that was past.