Funny how the mind works. What it can easily recall with the trip of a switch. Just one small icon or scent can trigger the recollection of an entire event long forgotten or even easily denied if queried on the issue. What it can repress and retain unmissed so that we can go about our daily lives seemingly sane. We live our daily lives never really needing to remember every single instance of our lives. But the root of many of our personal traits can quickly be uncovered by a simple trip of a switch: a single image, a grainy photograph.
A dormant memory, crisply revived, while paging through a family photo album. A grainy photograph of myself before a mound of sand on the beach. I hold the photo in my hand and close my eyes. I can hear the ocean, waves crashing on the shore, the scent of salt in the air. Seagulls gliding overhead, patiently seeking their next meal. Our family haphazardly picks out a clear spot on the beach.
Besides my parents, two brothers and two sisters, a cousin joins us on this afternoon on the shores of the Pacific Coast. This is my first impression of the ocean. The sea is vast, simply grand and immensely intimidating, yet somehow serene. The sound of the waves crashing down upon the shore is mysteriously, simultaneously and equally frightening, as it is comforting to me.
My mother is camera happy with her new Kodak110. She is constantly taking pictures of my father, despite his protests. “Why don’t you all sit down and build a sandcastle?” She suggests, probably less in an attempt at encouraging sibling alliance and more so with hopes to increase her photo opportunities. My brothers and sisters all rush about in daft titillation, as if some great reward were to be given, in compliance with her request.
My father is only too relieved that mom has found other victims to torture with her photographic fascination. Seconds later, I find myself sitting alone before a poor excuse for a sandcastle that is nothing more than a seven inch high pile of sand.
Suddenly the roaring ocean sounds like a melancholic song being sung just for me. And the salty air is seasoned just so to coat my wounds. Looking over to my left, I spy my mother photographing the other children, with a grin on her face, in delight that her photo opportunity was not ruined by defiant children. They are assembled, sitting in half circle, around an enormous pile of sand. I continue to build my empire of dirt in silence. The others are roaring and cheering in self-approval and congratulations. I can tell they are easily amused: a quick flash of bright light in their eyes and they are charged up for hours! My mother notices my distance, silence and solitude.
Squatting down in front of me and tilting her head she asks the simple and platitudinous question, “What’s wrong?” she manages to say with the same sincere tone as always. “Nothing“ I reply, burying my chin into my chest and therefore belying my demeanor. She persists in a caring voice, “Why didn’t you join the others?”
Taking a deep breath of cool, salty air, I close my eyes to hide the pain. Feigning assurance, I scoop up a handful of cold, wet sand and pile it atop my petty palace. But still, I give her no answer. Breaking the silence, she instructs, “Look up and smile!” No sooner did I look up, from my pathetic castle, when the flash was in my eyes. Well, I cant feel a smile on my face and I certainly don’t hear laughter emitting from within. I fail to find the amusement in which my siblings frolic. “They didn’t invite me to join them” I managed to mumble, staring over at the children in crescent laughter.
A dormant memory, crisply revived, while paging through a family photo album. A grainy photograph of myself before a mound of sand on the beach. Funny how the mind works. I’m certain that if this moment in time was recalled by any of my siblings or if I queried my mother, an entirely different tale would be told…if any memory surfaced at all.
Why do we harbor selective moments in our mind? Why does the mind safe keep these type of memories deep within it’s dark corners only to be brought to the fore with the trip of a switch. Perchance it is just doing it’s best to keep us seemingly sane…perchance.