Basements have never been a part of my overseas homes so having one as part of my present rental feels extravagant. A concrete floor, plastic draped ceiling and cement blocked walls make up the environment for the washer and dryer (another item I never had before), my bike, various gardening items and shovels, and a number of big plastic tubs. These plain tubs are labeled with dates or words. They consist of memories from my six decades of life. Other tangible memories can be found in my office’s filing cabinet, perhaps the most significant being letters I wrote by hand from overseas to my mother and are now in my possession. Digital photos and emails are also floating around in cyberspace somewhere or stored on an external hard drive. But the tubs are the most obvious because they are tangible, labeled and rather organized.
I have downsized considerably over the years, so it amuses me to see the tubs and consider: That’s my life. Baby Clothes (that looked like they were never used), Photos, Slides, Yearbooks, Journals, Diaries, Artwork, Report Cards, Diplomas, Sympathy Cards, Birthday Cards, and more.
On-sale-at-Walmart plastic tubs with hand-written labels on equally cheap note paper. Generally organized by years or categories.
But life isn’t like that. And so, memories aren’t either. My life and memories don’t fit into organized plastic tubs with labels.
These summery days I hear the locusts screeching as the summer heat of the day cranks up and I’m transported to the hot days in northern China where the cicadas were so loud and shrill that they would practically hurt my ears.
The humid weather and bursts of rain from towering thunderheads remind me of the weather of Hong Kong and life with perspiration and typhoons and wet feet.
My backyard zinnias in the USA here are huge and thriving, and I am reminded of the pathetic zinnias I tried growing in a small plot of dry, poor soil in my one China apartment complex, and then the thrill I and the neighbors had when miniscule flowers appeared on fragile, spindly stems.
When I go to buy fruit and vegetables at the farm stands nearby here I still struggle paying so much knowing that years ago I would pay a fraction of the cost for the same or similar produce overseas.
About a year ago I had a Chinese friend come for a visit, and in a trip to Canada next week I may be able to see a Chinese friend there. My worlds merge and separate.
Memories fly from place to place, from year to year, from person to person, intertwining, backtracking, looking ahead, analyzing, comparing, and enjoying. The memories don’t just stay in a box. Perhaps it’s a reflection about how my mind work– how our brains are wired! A memory jumps to another, smells, sights and sounds activate a series of memories that race back and forth and trigger other memories and even create new ones. It’s no wonder that my dreams are filled with a combination of people and places and situations that could not possibly happen in real life.
Plastic tubs of memories.
I visualize how true memories could be stored– tubs labeled by dates but then strings would link people, events, photos, journals found in the tubs. They could be strings of different colors perhaps symbolizing emotions or importance. This tangled mess of colored strings emerging and entering plastic tubs would discourage any suggestion of organization, but perhaps then this would be the picture of what memories really are–all so intricately connected in very complicated ways, yet mysteriously beautiful and intriguing.