Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spaghetti in the Pensieve

In one of the Harry Potter books, when Harry and Dumbledore are examining memories in the Pensieve, there’s one memory that Dumbledore has trouble getting out of its little bottle into the Pensieve. It clings to the glass, and stretches into strings as he forces it out…I think all memories are like that, in a way. They all cling, typically one to another, like strands of spaghetti that haven’t been tossed in olive oil.

It’s strange, really, the way things connect in the mind. One item references another, which triggers a third, and then, before you know it, you’re years away from where you started, deep in the reaches of memory or facing an unknown future.

It was editing an article that did it for me this time around. The author quoted Tobias Wolff, a contemporary fiction writer. At the moment, all I thought was, Tobias Wolff. I was in a writing workshop with him once. But hours later, in the quiet before sleep, strands began to cling, and my mind was off.

I remembered the writing workshop. It was in a richly paneled room in the back of a mansion – a chilly day, grey out the windows. Mr. Wolff presented briefly, then dug right into our work. When he got to mine he said he bet that I wondered what people would think of one of my characters, the Imp. I hadn’t wondered anything of the sort; in my mind, my Imp was the centerpiece of my story. Without her, I had no tale. But I found it interesting that he was considering whether the Imp worked. I suppose, if she didn’t, then the entire piece would be a flop. She must have worked, though. Tobias Wolff liked my story.

To the workshop clung the story, the conversation I recorded between myself and my Imp. And to the story clung the event that spurred it: an afternoon, a few months after Keren died, when I watched a video about a Trisomy-18 boy who lived for just three months. To that afternoon clung grief. The loss of my little niece, the impact it had on me.

And then, like that memory in the Pensieve, reluctantly pulled to the fore, came a thought: my new baby niece has to have heart surgery. Up until that moment I had not allowed the thought sway. A routine surgery. Something that they do a lot. But in that moment, intertwined with my grief, I saw the unknown future – Emily on an operating table. And it terrifies me.

The tears come – the ones I’ve held back for the past few weeks, the ones I’ve heard in my sister’s voice on the phone – and they wash over the strands of thought and memory, dissolving them together into the basin of my mind where they bubble now, just below the edge, in danger of splashing out at any moment.

1 comment:

  1. Dear friend, let the tears flow. Grief is like that. Fear is like that. The tears help cleanse and release all the feelings. And God keeps them as His treasure.

    Isaiah 45:3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness
    And hidden wealth of secret places,
    So that you may know that it is I,
    The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

    Aunt Sally


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