Why do odd details remain in memory? I remember fragments of dreams and moments from childhood, some with greater clarity than more recent memories. Why are they kept so vividly? I have deep sensory memories of the spindles of a dining room chair, the glitter of a formica counter, the warmth of sunlight on a wooden floor.
Or the smell of gym mats, the alternating enthusiasm and confusion felt during a children’s martial arts class, the green color that grape jelly makes when put on your scrambled eggs.
What about the spiral metal of a screen door (through which small children view the world like cloistered nuns)? The surprise of white filling in an orange popsicle. The double popsicles, always neatly broken in two to share. The glittery tassels on girlfriends’ bicycles. The rattling soda straws on younger brothers’ tricycles.
A dream in which I walked along the top of a low wall, following my mother to the store, only to look up and see that she was now far, far ahead, out of range of my voice.
The sound of typewriters in an office below our apartment; the circling splashes of light on the walls as cars passed by outside; a swan in a pond at the park.
These moments of strangeness or anxiety seem most common in times of new experiences, especially in early childhood when simple things like a visit to the neighbors or a trip to the store were full of novelty.
Just today I saw a quote from St. Augustine about the profundity and expanse of memory that struck me. I can’t find it again now, though, so it will have to remain half-remembered for the time being.
The more intense memories now seem to be those of God. I marvel sometimes to see little children who have a life of prayer. I didn’t, though I can see in hindsight a constant clumsy seeking, and the constant intercession of Our Lady and my Guardian Angel, unrecognized at the time. But these more recent memories of God’s mystery and love and intimacy are more vivid now than the faded strangenesses of long ago. Sometimes it seems even the long-ago memories are colored by that new wonder and tenderness, as if my whole life has been infused with His mercy.