On remembrance

I have never been afraid of the dark, not even as a child; never had a night light, never asked for one. I don’t remember ever complaining about nighttime in the winter and its unusual resilience. I will ask my mother though, just to be sure. I always slept heavily, from a very young age. As an infant I wouldn’t even wake up to feed so my mother assumed I wasn’t really hungry, until I began to lose weight.  

My favourite story my mother tells about me is how she used to take me with her to her friend’s house, and I would literally stand by her for hours, while she sat and chatted. I would hold on to a a tiny corner of her dress and look around. I distinctly remember her using the phrase “observe with an inquisitive look.” I wouldn’t converse with nor pay any attention to strangers. I was extremely cute, she said, with my blond curls, and my huge eyes, and my deep voice, but I was quiet, reserved and curious. 

I am currently reading Henry Miller’s Plexus and I am at a point where he suddenly feels a sense of nostalgia overcoming him, so he visits his parents in order to retrieve childhood memorabilia and toys that were associated with happy memories of a more nonchalant time. It turns out his mother had given everything away, including a puppet theatre made by hand by his uncle. He goes into great detail to describe both the toy and his love of it. He confesses, by the end, that he does not quite understand his own need to have all that back and possess it once again as an adult. Nostalgia is a tricky daemon; one should be very careful when deciding to play with it. 

I have very few things from my childhood: a few notebooks from first grade, lots of photos, but only one thing that matters. A small, plush mouse which was a gift by my aunt, my mother’s sister, when she came to visit us in Italy in the winter of 1987, when I was five years old. The adorable rodent is now missing its tail, but this mutilation bears even heavier on its significance. It was my companion throughout my school years and I even took it with me to Canada when we moved there in 1998. When I returned, six years later, it adorned my bed, until I decided to leave for my Masters, one year later. 

I think that was when I hid it, in a small valise, along with other significant objects: a poster and a set list from a Dashboard Confessional concert I went to with my friend Fanis (we had driven two hours from Ottawa to Montreal and waited at least for another two to get into the venue), letters that were written by anguished teenage friends and sent to Canada with love and expectation of a response which would come weeks later, photo negatives inside envelopes (whose photos were no longer there) of my undergraduate years in a country that was frozen solid for half the year but whose core burned hot with kindness. 

It’s not that I decided not to take it with me, I simply didn’t make the decision to do so. It’s been breathing there ever since. These past few weeks I have had a growing desire to take it out, wash it and have it on my bed again, not out of nostalgia, though. The need has arisen from a deeper emotion: remembrance. If only some inanimate objects could talk, the stories they would tell, and how different would they be to what we actually claim to remember. 

Maybe it’s better that they don’t speak, maybe it would break our hearts; maybe their silence is why we still hold on to them. 

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