The smell of sweet onions always reminds me of summers in my grandmother’s backyard. There was a grotto with a statue of Mary in the lawn, hiding in plain sight. My brothers and I would run around in the grass, up and down the small hill, and chase my dog around; I would pause at the green onion stalks, pull them up by the root, and just inhale the smell. That smell always reminds me of those days. The simple happiness of playing in her backyard, playing games of imagination.
I remember the night my grandfather died, I sat on a piece of rock with quartz buried deep within it and stared at the full moon. It was a Friday night in October, and my parents’ eyes were red-rimmed with tears. I had never seen my father cry before, and I ran to the rock with quartz buried deep within it, hiding in plain sight. I wrote words on a legal pad in a red pencil, words of the how and the why, the confusion of an eleven-year-old girl. My grandfather had believed in me; he had tried to teach me how to wink, he had called me “Princess”.
He was the first person I lost.
I lost my grandmother five years ago to an ugly disease that strips people of their memories. The last thing I remember her saying to me was, “You look beautiful tonight.” Her eyes were hazel, her lips were dry, and we kept applying chap stick to them. I wonder if she remembered the Mary statue in her backyard, but she could barely remember my mother’s name.
Memories are pliable, they’re like saltwater taffy, you can pull and stretch them at will. The things I remember today are things I may not remember tomorrow. I saw a film about a woman who has early onset Alzheimer’s. I felt tears stab my eyes a few times during the course of the film. Sometimes, I worry because my memories are so fragile. I have such a tenuous grasp on things that I previously I thought I’d never let go of; memories that I assumed would stay with me until the day I die.
I remember my first kiss. It tasted of pink cream soda. His mouth was ensnared in metal braces, and afterwards he had told me I was good at kissing. We had been flirting all night; my method of flirting was harsh because I didn’t know any better. I was unrefined. When we sat on that leather couch to watch public broadcast television with its women singing the blues, his lips touched mine, and I did what came naturally.
I remember the first time a boy broke my heart. He had left me sitting on sidewalk squares, my head in my hands, tears streaking my cheeks. He had left me hanging, saying, “Maybe I’ll come back for you.” He never came back.
I saw him last year. He had a wife, a son who seemed like he was old enough for first grade. I spoke to this man who broke my heart, and I said his name. I watched his eyes cloud in confusion. He didn’t remember me.
I remember watching cartoons in the kitchen as a young girl, making toast and coating it with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. The smell made my nose twitch and caused me to sneeze, the cinnamon and sugar seemed to fly everywhere.
I remember playing dominoes with my grandparents and playing card games; my cousin wanted to read every single rule. I just wanted to play.
I remember my best friend and I playing games that required imagination, and I had an abundance of imagination.
I went on a date with a man who was blind; he told me about the shadows in his dreams and how voices were what he remembered most, how my voice was the sound of bells on a clear day.
Everything can change in an instant. The memories, they play back like videos projected on a wall, and these projections I hold dear.
Memories are pliable; they’re like saltwater taffy. There are pages upon pages of memories scribbled in notebooks and in margins of books. I have so many memories to unpack, so many stories to tell.