Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Memory DNA

Image courtesy of Svilen Milev, www.efffective.com
I remember the hat you mentioned. Your brother said it made me look old. I still have that hat, but, I don't need it to look old. 

Yesterday I received a letter back from my Uncle F. In my letter to him I had recalled a roller coaster I once rode with him and how he lost his hat when the ride went upside down.

Never mind that the ride was some 30 years ago -- it immediately comes to mind when I think of Uncle F.

Stories like these -- an amusement park mishap, my Great Aunt L using colorful language to make my brother behave at the Thanksgiving dinner table, the time I foolishly took on my Uncle C, a real estate agent, in a game of Monopoly -- make up our family DNA. Just as important -- maybe even more so -- as our real genetic strands, memory DNA helps define us, gives us an irrevocable sense of place no matter where we roam.

Of course, just as with the real stuff, not all memory DNA is perfect -- alongside the silly and the funny there is the serious and sad, the illnesses and deaths and divorces. Which, perhaps, makes the happy moments all the more important: not unlike the stronger parts of our genetic code, recollections of better times can reinforce and heal us amid painful struggle.

I also remember taking you and your brother for a short flight in the Taylorcraft. Your brother has told me that that ride gave him an interest in flying. I am enclosing a copy of my logbook entry for that flight.

I was so touched to see the logbook entry from 1979. That airplane flight, a roller coaster ride, years of Christmases and Easters and everything in between -- no one else has my exact combination of memories. More so than my flat feet or straight hair or blue eyes, my memories, thankfully, make me who I am.

Yesterday morning, before receiving the letter from Uncle F, I wrote to my Aunt C. She is someone with whom I associate not hats, but shoes -- stilettos, in fact.

... Your ability to walk gracefully in those shoes, in any situation -- I will never forget the time you came to see me in Georgetown at my hotel, and we walked to that restaurant across the icy bridge. You did it, skillfully! Might seem like a weird thing to mention or admire, but I'm telling you, as someone who isn't always as sure on her feet, I'm in awe.

Obviously her footwear isn't all I associate with Aunt C, with whom I spent many a holiday as a child and who, a decade later, gave me advice about quitting smoking (our chat didn't yield automatic results, but it certainly got me started on the path of giving up cigarettes for good). More memories, more DNA.

My Uncle F closed his letter to me by mentioning how I have a great husband (I do) and how my stepson and son are lucky to have been born into such a loving family (we're lucky to have them). One of my greatest hopes is that my husband and I can help the boys build their own "memory DNA" -- a lifetime of experiences uniquely their own.

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