I’ve been traveling the last three weeks. Traveling has this effect on me where I remember things that don’t come up in my day-to-day life. I remember words in different languages, I remember people I’d forgotten, I remember smells and foods from another time and place. Part of my love of travel is how it’s a key for a locked memory box that opens when I leave home.
Sometimes I don’t get a memory, instead I get a flash of something. It’s like someone holds a picture up to my face but pulls it away two seconds later, so I don’t get a chance to really focus on it. I get colors, shapes, cryptic familiarities. It’s a tease.
I used to spend a long time trying to figure out the flashes. Trying to see the flashes more completely and more clearly. When my mom got sick, the memory flashes scared me. I thought they were a sign that something was wrong with my memory, because the flashes are confusing. I couldn’t remember if the flash was a something I experienced or a movie I once saw. I couldn’t remember who was with me or where I was. I was scared it meant the things I once knew vividly were eroding to just flashes.
But what I figured out is my memory has always worked that way. Sometimes well developed, well kept memories. Sometimes just flashes. So if that’s true, then I think there may be another explanation. That the flashes aren’t eroded memories, but something more like crumbs.
After a particularly delicious meal, you notice the crumbs on your plate. And they don’t look like the meal, but they remind you of something delicious, something you wish you could have again and again. Like memory flashes. They are the crumbs of something special, permanently saved as colors or shapes or smells or two seconds of a picture. The flashes aren’t meant to be remembered in their entirety. They are meant to be reminders of times lived so fully and with such enjoyment, that a crumb of wonderful gets left behind.