What Do You Want to Keep Remembering?

Mommy and Daddy in Xavierville

When we were clearing out my dad’s clothes, I kept a shirt I gave to him. I wear it to sleep sometimes. I remember whenever he’d go with my younger brother to do the groceries on weekends, he’d come home with a new pair of shoes or a shirt. He’d excitedly show it to us or wear it to church on Saturday afternoons. I miss seeing his face light up like that. I remember it when I open my chest drawer and see a bit of Bashful peeking from the folded shirts.

In my bathroom, there’s always been a plastic green pail that holds my intimates. In big, black Pentel Pen letters, it says in two lines: PANTIES / BRA. I’ve moved 3 times and I’ve brought it with me each time. Each time I sit down to pee, I see those words in my mother’s handwriting. I hope it never fades.

There are days when I don’t really think about it. It gets noisy and there are other things that have my attention. But when the rest of the world sleeps and it gets dark and silent again, I wonder. I think about my mom’s laugh on Sunday afternoons in our garage in Xavierville. Her eyes get small and the lines on the side of her face multiply as her toothy grin grows wider. I think about the way my dad says “okay.” He says it once then repeats it with an animated face, almost as if the first time was a rehearsal. I replay scenes in my head until I fall asleep and then for a moment, I’ll forget for a little while.

How do you keep someone’s memory alive?

Does keeping anything material that reminds me of them help? If I keep talking about them, does that help me remember? If I keep in touch with people who knew them, will that remind me of what they were like when they were still alive? Maybe if I eat the same things they used to eat, it’ll jog my memory.

A year ago and a half ago, I started posting one thing daily. Something to help me remember or keep track of things I want to look back on. Like a year ago today, what did I eat? What was I wearing? Who was I talking to? The older I get, the more I forget, the more difficult it is to remember. Two years from now, will I remember writing about this if this website is no longer up? How does our brain decide what to keep and what to forget? How does it choose the memories that replay in our heads? How do I make sure I keep them there?

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