After school, everyday of the week

School is over and we get home in the heat that I don’t remember particularly well. The boys talk, I listen, and as we pull up in their car I look at you. You are at the door. Somehow you were always there, waiting for us. I get out and am happy to be home. After washing away the sticky-sweaty day of children, we eat the yummy things you made for us. You always made it fun with your silly accents, and as we played with our food I was happy.

We were never messy, just silly, the lot of us. Serving ourselves, acting grown-up. How badly I wanted to be grown-up back then, driving that car like your best friend. Her Reva was a fantasy for me, somehow that has stayed with me, from age 8 to 18, it was a toy I longed for.

I think back, I remember the macaroni, the little samosas, the bakes, the meals you made so lovingly. What I remember more was the time you spent with us. The games we played. The kids’ shows you sat through. The art projects we embarked on. The visits to the park. The train journeys we spent hours of our lives on. The pooris we made together. The stories you read us. All the times you listened when I came home sad, the way you didn’t make my problems small. I remember those days.

It seems so long ago. Our roles have shifted. We talk to each other about our days, it is different. My thoughts are my own. You share more, I share less, but the balance has worked itself out. I am not a child, but I am your child. I cannot and do not want to forget that, even though you make me want to sometimes.

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You

The picture of you two is striking, the word is perfect to describe what I see, far before my lifetime.

Neither of you are smiling. I feel happy looking at it. You are beautiful, he is dapper. You are not as I see you today, carrying the marks of the last five decades with you– adorable, smiling figures who welcome me with love every vacation.

I see you today, content or angry, and I wonder about my future. The ego-centricism is showing, I know. Will I be like you one day, or will my life follow a different path entirely? You look at me, facing the camera head-on from the past.

I found another photograph, cake in one of your hands as you feed the other, the family looking on.

From the stern to the smiling, the transition is strange but natural. You retain your beauty and he his whiskers and neatly parted hair. The short hair I played with as a child, combing into white tufts that stood up from your scalp.

Today everything has changed, the joy I found being with you is marred by worry. You were often anxious about me then. The roles are reversed, I worry about you: one of you has forgotten me, the other constantly fretting about everything. The foundation of my childhood is gone, the stability I saw from your hand-made birthday cards, lemon juice in the sweltering summers, stories and phone calls has left me; bereft of your comfort.

For eighteen years you defined summer for me, your home my second. The white walls, the carpets, the ceilings, the brick mural, I have memorised all of them, just as I know your faces. They have not changed as much as we have.

I dream of those summers.

Memorising Memory

I read this poem a couple of days ago, Where are My Glasses, by Alessandra Liverani, and the humourous poem made me laugh, but it also rekindled my interest in Memory.

Memory is one of the most interesting things I have ever studied. We go through life so dependent on our memories for everything we do, but how often do we think about it, not in a “O! My memory is so bad” kind of way, but with more awe, like “How does my brain remember all this stuff?”

Memory is usually defined as the process of encoding, storage and retrieval of information, trust me, I know the definition by heart, but like all complex things, this definition does not do justice to the enormity of it, or to its importance in our lives.

Memory, has always held a fascination for me, I used to wonder about how we learned things, and how I could remember exactly which spot in a book a particular line appeared. This was just the beginning of my speculation about memory, and I think its pull on me has only grown as people in my life have started to struggle with it more and more.

The failures of memory have upset me, when people I love stop recognising me, when my mother forget things I have told her repeatedly, when I forget things I really shouldn’t (such as turning off the stove, Whoops!).

Memory has been my constant companion, way more than my shadow ( that disloyal thing appears only when there is light) and I wonder what happens when or if it abandons me like it has my grand-father? What then? Or worse, what if it leaves my mother, and she no longer recalls my face, the way her father is fast forgetting hers?

I worry.

If anyone is interested, you can find the Liverani’s poem at:

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/where-are-my-glasses-humour/

(Sydney, Australia – 2005)

Reciprocal Hand-me-downness, a thing I think I just invented

For want of inspiration, I am going to write about hand-me-downs. I think that we all have something in our closets that is a hand-me-down, maybe an antique piece of jewelry or an elder sibling’s jacket. Whatever they are, these hand-me-downs, are parts of other people that we carry with us.

Taking the idea of hand-me-downs in a less literal sense, there are lots of hand-me-downs we get from our family- unusual mannerisms,  funny food habits, a dislike for horror films, pretty much anything that we greatly resemble those people in.

It’s not just family members, there are hand-me-downs we get from friends, maybe not in the traditional sense, but things that we pick up in the course of the relationship, be they items of clothing or phrases that we have heard too many times to resist using them ourselves.

The people who have these hand-me-down relationships usually also have something I would like to call ‘reciprocal hand-me-downness’, which implies that both the parties give something to one another. For instance, I used to get a lot of my older brother’s clothes when I was little, and as we grew older, there were a lot of phrases that I picked up or made up, which he began to copy (mainly to annoy me). 

I see this happening in all my connections with other people and I wonder if hand-me-downs have come to mean an exchange that affects both the involved people in different ways, and one may benefit more from it this time around, but what about the next time?

Note: ‘Hand-me-downness’ has been used before, but my contribution is the idea of reciprocity in a hand-me-down system.