My earliest memories make no logical sense, one moment I’m standing in a field of sugarcane, the next moment I’m with a flock of ladies in a churchyard, in another moment I‘m running up the front steps of home. The green cane stalks loom above me in my toddler height, bowing in the wind as I run along the soft overturned earth between the rows. I don’t remember where I was going or why, only that I was scared of getting lost. The church ladies form a noisy ring of chatter, I don’t know how I got there, I look for my mother among them. I think I spot her, clutch at her skirts, but to my horror it’s a stranger who schrieks with surprised laughter startling me to tears. These memories are more sensations than stories. I know the smells and tastes of tropical fruits plucked directly from their trees, the scent and feel of different kinds of dirt, the rhythmic sounds of frogs, mosquitoes and crickets, the torrential summer rains that were refreshing showers of sweet water.
The more the time passes, the more the tedious or routine tasks that make up most of it disappear. And with them, the minutiae, the details of locations, the names of acquaintances, the countless actions, steps and drives connecting each and every moment. Conversely, certain experiences swell up with importance as you circle around them again and again, recollecting, reminiscing, ultimately, rewriting them in the stone of your mind, or more like the slate, or more like the sands. Though it isn’t blank, not enough to keep the memories unaltered, neither whole, nor fixed.
I used to fear the passage of time. I tried to hold on to many things. Even though I have a fairly good memory, I use to worry about forgetting. I kept boxes of mementos and wrote details in a journal. Old friends, new loves, dates, anniversaries, moments of wonder and joy that I believed were perfection, or the closest I would ever get. But I didn’t—couldn’t reckon with the grand scheme and scale of my own life, how first loves would fade to truer ones, how superficial relationships would become meaningless flotsam to deeper ones, how my best expectations were often far exceeded, though there were some profound disappointments too. Replacing that old anxiety is the sense that I haven’t seen it all, that I do not know it all, no matter how long I’ve lived, and a peculiar, recurring question: What will I remember of this time?
There is the stream of current events recorded in histories, official and unofficial, these are useful reminders, framing personal recollections within time and place. But as time passes, dates become more irrelevant and the senses takeover. Like my early childhood memories, all the winters, all the summers seem to flow into their separate pools of corresponding sensations, steadily and surely.
I wonder what will be remembered of the summer of 2018. This summer feels different from all the other summers. For one thing, it started two months earlier than usual. The forests have grown so dense, every leaf broader and bigger than any year I knew before, the green overflowing from the canopies, spilling out in vines, weeds pushing up through the sidewalk cracks. The insects are different too, instead of the usual fruit flies, clusters of tiny grey moths appear relentlessly in every cupboard and corner. Will I remember this as the summer of the moth? The longest, hottest summer? The first time we visited Croatia? Or the first school year for my daughter?
I can‘t say that I always actively choose what to remember because I don’t know what will take precedence later. I don‘t know the greater scheme that appears only after years, after decades. I hope that I will not try to hold on to the past. Although I will always cherish the memories. They will become unanchored, unencumbered by logic, yet filled with emotion, retained and relived with the senses.
Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker.