Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Our neighbors now keep chickens. As I walked by this morning their rooster was in full voice and it struck me as so odd that instead of reinforcing the realities of our rural life here, the sound of the cock's crow instead took me back to the farm in New Jersey where I grew up. Memory is a strange thing. I have been thinking a lot about memory lately, having recently reconnected with people and places from the past and having just come home from a reunion of our tiny nuclear family: me, my mother, daughter, her husband and mine.

My mother's memory is getting more and more selective. She shared with us last weekend that as a toddler I was allowed to keep a brood of bantam chickens. I have no memory of this, although I do remember other babyhood occurrences. Nor do I remember the charming picture she conjured up of my Pop-Pop coming in from the coop and offering me a double handful of tiny, perfect eggs. I can picture this, of course, but I don't remember it and, if it happened, I wish I could. My mother may, of course, have me confused in this pretty picture with a younger sibling of hers and that may explain the otherwise perplexing undertone of jealousy in her voice as she told the story.

Connecting on Facebook and in other ways with former fellow "victims" of the educational system and of other past lives, makes me realize just how subjective memory is - something about hearing the rooster I guess, but I suddenly imagined memories as eggs; not the kind produced by Martha Stewart's perfect Auricana chickens, but the kind I used to find among the chocolate confections and jelly beans in my Easter basket.

This egg was always placed in the center of the green, green Easter grass - a kind of ovoid jewel - inedible sugar sparkling with glitter and smelling, oddly, of dust. Inside were scenes, sometimes enchanting - who could possibly be living in that tiny shimmering paper house among the paper daffodils; disturbing: giant paper bunnies towering over paper cherry trees; mysterious: an ornate, white paper cross glowing amid a flock of adoring paper lambs. More than anything else on Easter morning, I looked forward to that egg. It provided a glimpse of the ordinary made extraordinary and, in a way, perfect.

I think memory is like that: we lift the egg to our eye and make of the contents what we will.