Monday, October 18, 2010

Dream: Glass Cases

I am a much better curator of memories than I am a liver of moments.

I have been reminded of this a lot over the past few weeks.  I cross state lines to cheer on my college football team and even referenced the school in my daughters' middle names, and yet on the day I graduated I was so happy to leave that I swore I would never go back.  The other night I felt myself tearing up nostalgically at the movie Dumbo as Mrs. Jumbo lovingly inspected her new baby, but I spent Big E's babyhood reduced to a jiggling heap of frustration and anxiety.  This morning at school a group of exchange students from France arrived and I sentimentally recounted to my students my own sophomore year trip to Paris; it wasn't until I was in the parking lot that I remembered how my host family had sent me up to a cold, lonely bedroom to wait for hours before dinner.

Coincidentally, it was during those chilled Gallic hours that I first read (and then re-read) The Catcher in the Rye whose protagonist Holden fixates on the glass-cased dioramas at The American Museum of Natural History.  Fearful of change, he appreciates their static nature.  This is close to the opposite of my need for glass cases, for it is only after things have changed that I can look back fondly at the diorama of days gone by. 

It is not that I never gaze appreciatively on a sweet moment, it is just that my eye is drawn more often to the less dazzling details: the children are whining, the house is a mess, I have a backpack full of grading to do.  Later, in my mental exhibition, I will polish and position it all to its best advantage.  I will see only the golden sunny vacation, the fun-filled playdate, the weekend of lounging with the family. 

Really, that is what I am doing with this blog and probably why I have been enjoying it so much.  I can take an experience, say venting work frustrations on my husband or pouting on a family skating trip and imbue it with sage like observations.  I am no longer a shrew or a party-pooper, I am wise and reflective.  I am Doogie Howser, M.D., without the genius IQ and the bedside manner.

Here is where I should claim some plan to change this aspect of me.  But I don't really think I can do that; it's too deeply ingrained.  I will, however, try not to share my dark vision with those around me.  Beyond that, all I can do is appreciate the gift of an optimist's memory.  It is, after all, the memories that endure.

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