Memory Train

I haven’t written a blog entry in months. I do not know why really? I have had many ideas for an entry or two, but a concept would never fully form in my mind so that writing could flow out of it. It was like my mind was on a train, passing stations with names such as: ‘The Importance of Cultural Context on the Individual’. ‘Nature versus Nurture’, ‘The Promotion of Individualism as a Necessity to Consumerism, ‘Things that Change and Things That Stay the Same: What the Rocky Mountains Taught Me About Impermanence’, ‘The Sublime Literary Genius of Kent Haruf’, etc… On and on the train travelled, encountering its manifest thoughts as train stations, but never stopping long enough in one place to really get to know it. It did not disembark at ‘Nature versus Nurture’, getting its overnight bag and going to the Attachment Theory Hotel to check in. Then once settled in its room, freshening up before going out into the street to spot the DNA Expression Pub and decide to pop in for a pint, before heading on to the Lamarckian Theory Restaurant for a roast dinner. No, it was just sitting there passively on the train, noting each station sign as it went by. Reading and understanding the words, but not being able to concentrate on them long enough to formulate thoughts upon which to write.

I guess this is understandable. I left my hometown of Calgary in 2007, not for the first time in my life, but for the longest, most protracted time. I moved to London and started a life there. I loved living in that town. As difficult as it was sometimes, my heart seemed to beat with its same rhythm. When I left London to move to Turkey so that I could have my daughter, it was the right decision. I loved everything about Southern Turkey and I thought that would be a good place to start a family. I was correct. I was correct until the day after my daughter and I arrived in Calgary for a three week visit. The bomb blast in Istanbul airport had created a vacuum in foreign tourism, but the declared state of emergency after that day’s coup attempt was its death knell. My husband, worried about the political and economic situation, told my daughter and I to stay put in Canada for the time being. In disbelief, I cancelled our flights. That was in August, August 3rd to be exact, and still today I am sitting here in my parent’s house; the house in which I grew up.

Last night, we were sitting here altogether, my mother, father and I, talking about the earliest a child remembers. I was telling them what I thought were my earliest memories. The time that my mother and I went down the lane in her little blue Corvair, getting about 3 minutes from the house when all of a sudden the car stopped. I was told that we had to get out of the car and walk back to the house. We returned home, and my father was dispatched to check out why the car had stopped working. The clutch had packed up. Our trip to the shop was aborted. I was about three and a half years old. I remember another day, playing marbles with the older boy across the street. I won. I knew that I was younger and had just beaten someone older. I felt proud of myself. I had just turned four. I remember doing a lip-synching, dancing routine on the dinning room table; a wooden spoon as my microphone. The turntable blared Shaun Cassidy’s Da Doo Run Run, as the moving men laughed at me whilst packing up our house for our move to Calgary. I did not want to move. My mother gave them all a beer for their day’s labour. They sat around drinking little stubbies of Molson Canadian. Smiling, talking, relaxing. I was four and a half.

As I sat in the easy chair talking about my earliest memories with the only people who could confirm their reality to me, I felt like I was on that mind train again, except this time I was not visiting concepts but moments. It occurred to me that I could have all of these thoughts and ideas but what was left for me, for all of us, were memories of my life. Moments in time that were crystallised in my psyche, waiting to be mined again and again, but what for? Have my memories defined and created the person I am today? Or is it my own ideas surrounding those memories that have shaped me? Is it the concepts I draw from those times that make me a Conservative or a Socialist, a liberal or a prude, a Buddhist or an Atheist? Coming back to my hometown and spending a protracted amount of time here makes me ponder this all the more.

For the first few weeks, I felt like an alien. I was listening to people talk about things that concerned them and I just couldn’t get concerned. I am not deriding or downplaying their worries. I am just acknowledging that I could no longer relate to their points of view. If someone exclaimed in sheer despair that she had broken a nail, the first thought that came to my mind was: ‘But it will grow back.’ I realised that all of the memories I had created overseas had made me different to the people with whom I had journeyed previously. The people to which, a mere 10 years ago, I was closest. This has left me feeling adrift. It has left me not knowing how I define myself; who I really am? It has made me question the fluidity of my personality. I keep thinking: If I had never moved abroad who would I be now? Would I be the same person or would I be crying over a broken nail? I do not know if I can really answer that question. Perhaps, it is just some philosophical conundrum that we can ponder but never truly decide upon one way or another. Am I the sum of my memories or am I the maker of those memories? Even as I write this I am confused.

A week after my daughter and I arrived here we went to the mountains. I have scores of memories of being in the mountains as a little girl and onwards. I remember going on hikes that I couldn’t now name even though I know that all of them have a name and a distance and a reason for existing. There is one that I remember quite clearly. We hiked and hiked for what, in a child’s mind, seemed like ages. The hike itself was not memorable, there was no clearing of the trees to find a magnificent panorama like other hikes. There were no unexpected mountain goat or deer popping up into our paths. There were no interesting rock faces or dense forests to view. Instead it seemed that we were enveloped in a natural no-man’s land waiting for the end of the hike, where we were promised something, anything for our long walk. On this occasion we were not to be disappointed, or at least I personally wasn’t. We rounded a corner and the terrain changed. We walked along for just a few minutes when all of a sudden the path ended, just like that. Suddenly we were staring into what seemed like a paradise on earth. There was a huge organic amphitheatre composed of a mountain meadow full of wild flowers which hugged a glacial lake. The lake seemed to just exist as an extension of the meadow. The long grasses and petite flowers gave way to a bowl of icy, fresh water. I was entranced. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. We spent some time there before we had some of our packed lunch and then returned back down the mountain. A brief time in a magical place. A memory formed for a lifetime. Because although I must have spent under an hour in that place, well over 30 years later, it is still part of me. My memory of it has made it part of me. Perhaps that is the answer to my question. My memories are part of me. Those moments that are burned into my mind are the ones to which I gave meaning. Those snippets of time are the ones that held such magic for me that I recorded them for my lifetime. The meaning that I gave them says something about who I am – the personality that found them interesting enough to give them a place in my consciousness. My memories therefore do not dictate who I am or will become, rather they express something about who I am as a person that I should have chosen them to cherish.

Being back in an environment which I chose to leave so many years ago, gives me the opportunity to flex the person I have become. To let that woman loose on this environment. To chose which moments of time I will cherish and which I will allow to pass into the oblivion of time. Yes, the places I have journeyed to have given me a different perspective on things and that has made me feel slightly adrift. Their effect on me as a person has changed what I chose to make meaningful.  Though, as I navigate in this time and place, I can rest on the person who preformed wildly to a group of movers who were destroying her four-and-a-half-year-old world because I know that she still has a song and dance routine for the circumstantial movers that have destroyed her current world. They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, but I prefer to say that when the going gets tough, the tough get Da Doo Run Running.


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