Monday, March 21, 2011

Try to Catch the Deluge in a Paper Cup

door, 2011

Today I woke up in another decade. Don't Dream It's Over played quietly in the background. We wrote letters, spoke on landlines, and wore our hair like Madonna's. We listened to records and didn't call them vinyl. MTV showed music videos and we wanted no more. The 80s were actually the 80s before they were retro.

The mockery or loving reenactment of a time and space will never truly bring it back. What was cannot be again, not even in memory, but the memory is all we have, so we hold on to it tightly.

Some of the past is brought back again and again through story or photograph, but most disappears, until the day you wake swimming in a pool of it. It is elating. It is all there, and like a dream, you are afraid to move or think for fear it will vanish and never return. So you tell someone, or you write it down, as quickly as possible, while you have it there in your hand.

Dad called me one day to share a story. Just the telling was exciting for him. Without warning, a completely forgotten part of his life was returned to him.
So I chop up some garlic and toss it into a pan with olive oil, the scent wafts up, and I'm six years old again. (long pause for effect -- I sense he's smiling) I've done this a million times, but today I'm six years old again. (another pause, not as long) I'm in my family's apartment on the South Side. It's all so real. I'm actually standing there, in our old apartment, and I'm smelling the garlic. A Jewish family lived beneath us and when they cooked, the smell of whatever they were cooking came up through the vent. I hated the smell of garlic back then. I guess we didn't cook with it. I couldn't imagine what horrible food they were preparing down there. (You have to understand he is relaying the hated and the horrible with great glee and animation -- he is six years old again) I couldn't believe it. It's like I was actually there. Has anything like that ever happened to you? (Of course he's speaking too quickly for me to answer) So I call Al (his big brother) and I tell him the whole story in Latvian (they grew up speaking Latvian). I felt that it had to be told in Latvian. I asked him if he remembered the apartment, that family, the garlic. He said No, not really.
Don't Dream It's Over Crowded House


  1. Funny thing, my family has been talking a lot about memories lately, due to a discussion about a summer camping place. We do hold on so tightly, defying logic sometimes.

    Love this memory story.

  2. That's the way of memory right enough. How well you've told it. "The 80s were actually the 80s before they were retro." - I'd almost forgotten the truth of that.

  3. I am finding that my memories are closer to me than they have been- perhaps, we value nostalgia more as we get older.

    I am glad to see "To the Lighthouse" on your nightstand:)

  4. I love this song Denise. I'm listening to it right now. Thanks for reminding me of it :)

    The color of that door is beautiful. I always enjoy so much that first, lone photograph at the start of each of your posts.

  5. South Side? Makes me think of Pittsburgh. In the 80s, I bet I really believed that my South Side was the only South Side in the world.

  6. it is so funny what one remebers and the others doesn't. the memories

  7. The nature of memories... sometimes, I am astounded to realise that my memories are memories and no longer reality. How odd, really, that what we remember was present tense once; that our present now will be a memory soon. Or maybe I'm just getting older and (even) more nostalgic.

  8. Ah the 80's ...good times and some wonderful memories. I think I still am stuck in there some how.
    Love your image today, beautiful nostalgia and color.

  9. kate, I like the way you put it "defying logic sometimes". Yes, it does happen.

    mise, You are not the only one.

    Cha sen, You just might be right. It seems to be the case in the people I know. I decided to revisit To the Lighthouse. It's a favorite.

    Magda, I seriously woke with this song playing in my mind. I'd forgotten about it and was happy to hear it again. What a lovely comment about my photographs -- thank you. I was out on a stroll when this door stopped me. I happened to have my camera.

    Melissa, I thought Chicago had the only South Side in this world, you know, because of Jim Croce and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

    Char, This is so true in my family. We all have our own versions of the past.

    Anja, I know exactly what you mean and you said it so well. I often think of this with photography. Sometimes I think the photograph versus the real moment is what becomes memory. Memory is an intriguing subject. We are both making memories, right now. It seems were both nostalgic.

    Camilla, The 80s does seem to have a large fan base. I know I had fun. Thank you. I like this door image too

  10. I'm thinking of your dad and how the smell of garlic triggered his memory, and whether there is a smell that could the '80s. Aqua Net, maybe?

  11. Yes, the vivid memory. Scents seem to put me back in a certain place - as well as hearing music. I do remember Crowded House - great music...I had that tape. I remember them, and that reminds me of The Unbearable lightness of Being (one of my all time favorite books and movies)... the association? I'll have to think about that one...

  12. Odd how the past chooses to visit and make itself so very 'present.' I'm glad the memory of being six was so vivid and happy.

  13. "The 80s were actually the 80s before they were retro."

    Ah, to have such problems. Trying growing up in the 90s. Nobody ever feels nostalgic about the 90s. Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Kris Kross, Temple of the Dog. Ouch.

    OK, maybe the Portlandia people miss it a bit...

  14. do not dream it's over though.
    it never is.

  15. You've gotten at the heart of several things, here. Just beautiful. (And, I've enjoyed the brief trip back to the 80s - thank you.)

  16. My husband bought me a record player for my birthday this month. We've been listening to Kenny Rogers and Tracy Chapman. Funny how scents from food can take you years back... music, too.

  17. love the song...wonderful memories...

  18. Such a lovely post.
    I have that feeling sometimes, I grew up with my grandparents, and everyone spoke Hindi (even though we lived in San Mateo)...and sometimes I get the feeling if I open the door to another room, everyone will be speaking it there, that softer, gentler language...

  19. ahh the 80s :) I remember them well. so true how often the smallest things spark a memory of long ago - i enjoyed reading about your dad - funny how sometimes what makes us remember does not always make others remember, or indeed how one's recollection and memory of a point in time is quite different to another's... thank you for the reminders - especially the crowded house song - it reminded me of when we were driving along a remote italian coastline, we'd been away from NZ for months when suddenly a crowded house song came over the radio - i don't think we'd smiled so much or sung so loud :)

  20. How did I miss this post?

    I'm an only child,both my parents are dead, so I have no one to actually, orally share memories with.

    But a sound or a song or a bowl of ripe peaches can take me back in a heartbeat.

    I am the sole family historian.

    xo Jane

  21. aromas awaken memories like nothing else

  22. Unfortunately the 80s are now being resurrected through absolutely horrible fashions - can't say the 80s were my favorite decade. I still can't look at leg warmers without breaking out in a sweat :)

  23. I love how smells can trigger special memories. Whenever I smell cold butter or star jasmine I think of my grandmother. I hope someday I am remembered with such perfect scents. :)

  24. Waking up in memories can be such a gift.

  25. I've been told that the sense of smell is the most powerful--and primal--of our senses. I am always astounded at the kinds of memories that smell--especially when associated with food--can trigger.
    And, the delight is that you never know how or where or when that "deluge" will open up for you.

    I'm convinced that nothing is really forgotten--it's just buried somewhere in the mind.

  26. I just love that song and that line though I'm not sure I know its meaning. Have you heard this version?
    My Dad was a kiwi and I only visited NZ after his death. As I took the taxi from the airport into Auckland this Crowded House track was on the radio and it was a very poignant moment. The only NZ band I knew!

  27. gorgeous writing in this piece.
    'don't dream it's over' provokes so many childhood memories for me, too.

  28. So many things to comment about this post that I have to slow down and take one thing at a time:
    1: BEAUTiful Photo!
    2: Love "The 80s were actually the 80s before they were retro."!
    3: Funny how a smell can bring us back to something we had forgotten and actually influence what language we choose.
    4: Love how you told your dads story, made me laugh. Thank you for sharing that.

  29. @Rachael, Malibu rum & pineapple juice?
    @Janis, I have a good friend in Chicago who adores The Unbearable Lightness of Being. First the book, then watching the film over and over, Sunday after Sunday.
    @Zia, And often so unexpectedly.
    @knowledgeman, Hey, I'm not from Portlandia and I loved the 90s -- Pearl Jam, Nirvana's MTV Unplugged, modeling my hair after Demi Moore's in Ghost...
    @woolf, ;)
    @Lecia, Thank you.
    @the Lady, What I miss most about records is the covers, with all of the great artwork and lyrics. Have fun!
    @Design Elements, :)
    @Joyti, My younger years were spent surrounded by a large extended family. It was a nice way to begin this life.
    @Annie, Your Italian coastline memory is superb. I believe you need to play Crowded House and think of it all again.
    @Jane, Well, you are just going to have to write it all down or record it all. You are an excellent story teller, so get to it ;)
    @Amelia, I completely agree.
    @Raina, Come on... I loved leg warmers :)
    @Nicolette, What a beautiful way to remember your grandmother. I'm sure you'll be remembered with just as much love.
    @alexandria, Not always, but thankfully these were good memories.
    @nancy, I'm not sure which sense has the greatest power. I'm usually brought back to the past through photographs, scents, and songs. A couple of years ago a high school friend visited me and packed some of our old letters and, wow, it brought so much back.
    @gloria, I listened to this link's version. To which line are you referring? Very interesting coincidence in the taxi, or was it a coincidence...
    @melissa, Thank you.
    @Anne Marie, Thanks so much x 4.

  30. you know what... this tells my age (teenagehood) and i don't care :D i enjoyed every minute of it ++ and wouldn't want it any other way !
    And ... I listened to the song until the ned & sang along :P

  31. Valerie, I'm listening again, right now, the entire song. Memories...