“God gave us memory that we might have roses in December”
Recently, I was made aware of this quotation for the second time in my life. By the same person. I had forgotten it. I have forgotten many things from my youth; often what I do recall are the small details and nuances of my life…
………. The orange-brown carpet in our house, worn and dirty in certain areas; the chill of the basement floor, the cool sensation of grass under bare feet, the smell of clover, making clover chains, watching ants in the ground march into their tiny craters of dirt. Living in a young suburb, there was nature abundant, including a dirt road that led to adventures of the imagination. There were wild roses in the summer, violets covering the wooded floor; in the tall fields were black eyed Susan’s, Queen Anne’s lace, tiger lilies…
………I remember playing by myself with little dolls, blocks, cars, and creating stories in my mind. I recall crossing the soybean field – one row at a time - as a shortcut to school; breaking in the window downstairs if we forgot our keys, while Mom was still at work. I remember the smell of mothballs at grandma’s house, and the long staircases; the colors and taste of homemade Christmas cookies, scent of pine from the tree; the crisp air of the first cold snap and bright stars in the vast December night sky.
These are elements of my childhood, imprinted in my being. There are other elements, other memories, but most of my interactions with people are blurred -- this in spite of my two sisters, little brother, and family vacations full of new experiences and sensations. Of those trips, the event I recall the most vividly is a walk in a pine forest, the feeling of warm sunshine filtering through, the soft blanket of brown needles underfoot, and a light summer breeze. I had the sense that I was by myself but most definitely not alone – it was pure magic. To this day, I cannot smell pine without feeling a slight twinge of recall, that, coincidentally or not, is the same as the scent of a Christmas tree.
December is the nighttime of the year, the closing down, hibernation if you will, of much of nature. For me, it is a time for remembering and a time to prepare for and celebrate both old experiences -- and new beginnings.
While the childhood memories, like roses in summer, seem bright and colorful, not all my memories are pleasant; many are quite the opposite. Roses have thorns, as it has been pointed out often. I am not going to get into the philosophical reasons why something that represents love can also cause pain. Better minds than mine have tackled these subjects; I have my beliefs and some of them may come out in the course of telling my stories. For that is what I feel compelled to do. Many are quite thorny and have been painful to live through. I am also very aware that others have more dramatic stories; more tragic, painful, and more transcendent.
Yet I can only write what I know. And I know that there are valuable conclusions I have drawn, so far, from these painful episodes. A great deal of what I’ve learned, especially in more recent years, comes from experiences with other people and I will be telling some of their tales as well, where our narratives intersect.
One could argue that it is not good to dwell in the past. I would argue that our stories are all we have, the only valuable thing - certainly the most human thing – that we have to share. I do not wish to dwell in the past but I hope some of my memories may be of use to someone, maybe even inspire others to tell their stories.
I also hope to regain some more lost memories; connecting with my high school friend brought back events and qualities about me that I had no recall of. It has helped to bring that picture of myself and my youth a little more in focus. I think during that time of my life, adolesence, when I began to experience a new kind of freedom, I knew those experiences would never come again and they should be treasured. It is therefore ironic that I should forget the quote I liked so much (so much so that I gave my friend a bouquet of roses, she said) and other events during that time. What is even more peculiar is the source of that saying – J.M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan", subject of one of my favorite movies: “Finding Neverland”.
The story of a boy who did not want to grow up! While I cannot say I relate to that sentiment any longer, there was a time when I did not want to be a grown up, no, not at all. I knew it was a frightening world. I would have preferred to stay in that child’s world of little toys and big dreams, fantasy, color, sounds, sights, and smells; the comfort and safety of the small things, the magic in nature and in stories. Yes, I do believe a part of me is still in Neverland.
Thanks to Google, I know I’m not the first to use the Peter Pan metaphor, and certainly won’t be the last. Yet there’s a reason a good tale resonates with so many, for so long. It speaks to a truth. I hope my stories do also, and that the roses will balance out the thorns.