Readers Write In #169: One memory for eternity?

Posted on May 5, 2020

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(by Anu Warrier)

It was reading BR’s write-up about After Life that started this train of thought. If I were to have to choose one happy memory for all eternity, what would I choose? Out of the hundreds of memories, stored haphazardly in the treasure chest of my mind, what’s the one memory that would encapsulate my entire life thus far?

Sitting on the beach with my father as a child, learning for the first time that a shell contains within it the sounds of the oceans? Sitting, as a teenager, with my feet in the cool waters of the pond on a sunny afternoon, just happy to be alive while fish nibbled idly at my toes? Discussing Pride and Prejudice with my grandmother or arguing with her about the merits and demerits of Madambu Kunhikuttan’s Brashtu? Watching my grandfather painstakingly make chakkavaratti, whose English name ‘Jackfruit jam’ simply does not do justice to the sublime red-gold goodness that melts in your mouth? The moment I got married to the man I loved? Or the day I held my first-born in my arms? Professional triumphs? Accolades?

Which of these memories is worthy enough to be that one single memory enshrined for eternity?

What about the not-so-pleasant memories? Do I forget the first time I met Death when I lost my best friend to Leukaemia at 17? Or my reacquaintance with it when a dear friend took his own life, chased by demons none of us knew? The aching pain of putting our dog to sleep and still seeing his eyes look lovingly at us?  Would choosing the moment I held my first-born mean that I completely forget my other son? Or the baby who lay in my arms, secure that he was loved, but not knowing that I couldn’t stop him dying?

Or the memories that are somewhere-in-between? Topping the State for my undergraduate degree? Seeing my name in print for the first time? Going on a family holiday after many years? Watching my nephew, who was the first baby I held, get married? Holding his baby in my arms? Or something as simple as letting my bare feet sink into the dew-flecked grass on a cool Spring morning?

Life has certainly been messy; things haven’t gone exactly to plan. But on the whole, these memories are all I have of a life lived in all its dust and glory. To give up many for one seems a Faustian deal, and one that I, at least, would rather not make. It isn’t as much what I could choose to keep than what I would have to forget.  To have and hold only one single memory for all eternity seems worse than Dante’s seventh circle of Hell.

Moments are fleeting; memories aren’t. Together, they form the warp and weft of my existence. There they lie, in a chaotic jumble, the colourful, albeit dusty tapestry of my life. Some strands may shine more brightly than the others. The others are those I glance at cursorily, before they slip back into oblivion. But sometimes, comes a whiff of a faint fragrance, creeping out of that darkness, to catch me unawares. And a tidal wave of memories – happy and sad, good and bad – comes rushing back.

I would not, could not swap them for anything in the world.