My younger sister, an artist, presented my two children with two biggish wooden boxes in their infancy. The boxes are covered with hand painted motifs and are something we all will cherish in the years to come. We call them our “Memory Boxes”. Inspired by the boxes for the children even I got one made for myself. In these boxes rest a motley collection of paraphernalia which make sense only to the respective owner. The name, Memory Box, denotes exactly that. Where we store our memories.
A lock of baby hair, first pair of tiny footwear, first band-aid, first tooth, second tooth, third tooth, so on and so forth. Prints of baby hands and feet. Pre school certificates. As you can gather these are contents of my children’s boxes. And as years have gone by they keep adding things which they value.
My box is of the more grown up variety. Letters and cards given by close friends and family right since high school days. Small trinkets which have only sentimental value, each carrying a tale.And oh yes, hoards of boarding passes, entrance tickets to various monuments and tourist attractions, bus tickets and train tickets. If someone probably peeks into my box they will see this bag full of bits of paper. But those little chits transport me back immediately to that day and place as if I am there at that moment. And somewhere along the past few years the children have also picked up this habit. So now they have tickets stubs from their trip to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and a coaster from a favourite restaurant to add to their memory.
Of course here I am talking about the physical evidence of small and big experiences. But when I do sit with this box , I often visualize our brains. And the memory department. Made up of so many many slots. Where we store each and every memory of each and every experience we have had. I always believe that we don’t forget anything , we only can’t recollect everything all the time. But each and every memory has a trigger. A smell, a voice, a song, a tune, a gesture, a sigh. And suddenly a memory comes rushing in. It’s as if every box where a memory is stored has a tiny lock and each has a different key.
As I sit and jot this down, I can hear the insistent calling of the cuckoo. And though its been years since I have appeared for any exams , I always associate the cuckoo’s call with exam time as this is the time of the year when schools conduct their final semester assessments. So you see, the poor cuckoo doesn’t hold a good memory link for many of us 🙂 .
I reached my mid 40s this March and somewhere within, it takes a little while getting used to. Not in a negative way but sometimes the mind cant believe it. I go to the mirror and get very surprised to see this middle aged woman looking back at me. Where did the jaw line go? And what about those layers? When did they creep in and settle down so comfortably and make themselves at home?
While on some days I crave to carve my body back to its skinny old self, on most days I am more kind to it and acknowledge the years and labour put in by it. Peer pressure isn’t faced by teenagers alone..but then who wants to accept that fact? We are forever trying to gain acceptance from this society we inhabit.
But overall I think I am at a point where I am happy in my own skin, literally and otherwise. And I also think that each one of us have to make this journey at our own pace and not just follow blindly. I am glad I grew up in an environment which encouraged individualism and not the herd mentality. So while there have been patches where I have wandered off my chosen path in a bid to ‘fit in’ as I call it, eventually I have hopped back on.
I read the obituaries page in the newspaper almost everyday. Some find it morbid that I go to that page. ” What’s there to read in that column?”, I am often asked. Just announcements of people who have passed away. Am often asked why I would like to read death announcements right in the morning.
But for me an obituary isn’t just about someone’s death being announced. I read the little passages accompanying the announcement. I study the picture which graces it. Some people have twinkles in their eyes, as if they found pleasure in life’s little joys. Some look grumpy. Some look so common place that for a second I wonder if I have actually met them somewhere. They have such ordinary faces.
I wonder at what kind of life they have lead. How they must have left behind bereaved family members. Some of them have a long list of great grand children mourning the loss. And I think what a long life that person must have lead to have had the fortune of seeing his or her great grand children.
There are faces I see every year. In memory of long lost loves. Each year they appear without fail. With a simple line of ‘we miss you’ accompanying the photograph.
I ache when I read one of a small child. Every parents’ nightmare. Losing a child. A million thoughts rush through my mind as I read that one page every morning.
I read some declaring the emptiness a person has left behind him.
And I wonder at why we do not make that effort when the person is living, but declare undying love when he is gone?
But then as I said before, to me obituaries are about life and not death.