Saturday, March 1, 2008

Souvenir

1.a usually small and relatively inexpensive article given, kept, or purchased as a reminder of a place visited, an occasion, etc.; memento.
2.a memory.

John Prine has a song about souvenirs and it makes my heart ache whenever I hear it.



I have been thinking about souvenirs a lot lately as I go through the boxes in the basement. About why we keep what we keep. Why we humans need those tangible elements to bring back intangible times...
I wonder if we are the only species to remember so vividly, so keenly, regretfully, remorsefully and so wonderfully?
Where does memory cross from instinct to magic?
I can remember my first memories, they are all sensory: my father holding 3 year old Martha at the back door watching the sunset, while mama cooked supper and brother sat doing homework at the kitchen table on Water Street. Waking up from a nap in the station wagon, lying in the front seat, the vinyl warm and new smelling, the grasshoppers and locusts buzzing, the sound of the wind in the trees, sitting up to look for Daddy and seeing him in the field working on our farm. Common ordinary events, so why are they my first memories? They make me feel safe somehow, loved, protected. I am fascinated by what turns an event into a memory. What makes it a souvenir.
Why we can't choose a memory. Why we often forget things we desperately want to remember, remember things we desperately want to forget...
Sometimes I feel my life is cluttered with meaningless junk. Sometimes I feel richly endowed with souvenirs. I suppose it all depends on how I view it, who views it and why.

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