Monday, January 14, 2013

Moments, Memories, and Oatmeal Cookies

I have been accused of having a long memory, and it’s true. I don’t have the kind of memory where there’s total recall of what I ate last Wednesday for supper or where I left my glasses (again), and while I do have a talent of sorts for useless trivia, movie star stats, and anything regarding the English Monarchy, those are not the kind of things that I remember with the warmest of regards. I remember people, events, moments in time that come rushing at me like a mockingbird on steroids, bent on getting my attention. The “Aha!” moments are the best, the ones where you have a deeper understanding of those around you.

Mrs. Kane was the closest I came to having a grandmother who baked cookies and cuddled me when I skinned a knee. I remember every time she baked her homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies with icing. She was doing it for me. In her eyes, I was worthy of the time spent. Isn’t this the message you would want a child to remember about you? Even now, these long years gone, I can see her standing in her kitchen, dropping one cookie on the baking sheet at a time, and taking time to talk with me. I swear, I can remember so strongly that sometimes I can still feel my Mama’s hand cupping my chin as I’d lean into her when I needed comfort. She never pulled away from me, always letting me linger until I was ready to stand on my own again. The memory fills me with longing and reminds me of the joy that I had a parent who loved me. The memories of family and friends are always the strongest, but there were times that strangers touched me just as deeply, and their memory remains.

There was a gentleman of Asian descent at Arlington National Cemetery, standing at the grave site of Robert Kennedy. I watched as he read the words surrounding Kennedy’s burial site. He bent low, bowed and backed away in a movement of humbled respect; catching me off guard and making me catch my breath. With a simple gesture he taught me that beauty and respect can be found in the most unlikely of places. I watched a "sales associate" yelling at a Spanish-speaking gentleman in a large (very well advertised) department store during one very bitter winter, telling him she couldn’t understand him. A lady walked over, and knowing very little Spanish asked him if she could help. He pantomimed that he was cold and she somehow understood that he wanted to know where the coats were. He was cold and didn’t have a winter coat. You can yell at someone all day long, and while they can certainly hear you, the only message they will walk away with is they are somehow less than, until someone steps up and shows that perhaps a gentle hand can get you further.

I hear my office mates and friends talking of the New Year, what this one or that one will do, how they will change, eat less, diet more, exercise, give up smoking, take up painting, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone say they were going to work on how they would be remembered. I want to be remembered. Not as some famous so-and-so, but as a Mama, a wife, a sister, a friend, and a crazy, silly, melancholy mess called Mary. It’s like a bit of me living onward right here on earth with those I love and hopefully with those I have touched in some way. It’s kind of like the way my children never met Mrs. Kane, but they know of her, and her warm kitchen and spoonfuls of oatmeal cookies and icing from how I remember her. They somehow understand that it was about so much more than baking. Children are smart that way. So as the resolutions begin, I’ll just keep plucking away at being me, and hoping to be remembered.