Memory Bottles

What if I had a memory bottling machine? I am just thinking out loud here, but something like a device or doohicky that would capture not just the image, but the essence of a moment. Some kind of bottling contraption so that we could bottle a moment’s greatness, bitterness or a bit of both for later consumption. The result would be a kind of fizzy soda of your past that when sipped, the effervescence would bring back every sense, emotion, mood, nuance, taste, sound – so that you could experience your moments everlasting.

And these bottles might be kept in some sort of memory-storing device much like an old soda cooler. You see, as time goes by, the edges start to fade and memories become hazy. Sure, you have photos, but the feelings fade. They are in you, they are part of you, but their subtleties become elusive.

These bottles could contain events or moments of great importance like a wedding or first kiss, but I think some lesser known moments might be more interesting flavors.

One such flavor in my cooler would be Deserted Norwegian Train Station.  

My husband and I were on the Flåm railway between Oslo and Bergen in Norway and stopped for a transfer at a station along the line. While we waited, we were the only two souls in this deserted station high above Norway. The snow banks outside were up to our waists and it was absolutely silent. No sound. We sat together in hard wooden seats all alone for over two hours. I snapped this shot of Rene, which is one of my favorites.

But this photo doesn’t tell you how I felt, only what it looked like. If this moment were captured in a memory bottle, it would contain hints of solitude and winter’s loneliness along with a subtle note of birch tree. If I could drink it, it would taste milky and I would be reminded of how far away, yet supremely alive I felt.

Another such bottle would contain the flavor First Born in the Morning Light.

When my son was a baby, there was one moment I looked forward to each day. He would already be awake, but before entering, I would stand at the threshold of his nursery for a few moments, trying so hard to map this daily moment to memory. How the floor creaked as I entered and how the light cascaded through the windows and brought out the red hues in his hair. The sound of the bed springs as he hopped up and down in excitement to take on the day. Here is a photo I snapped in hopes that it would remind me of this feeling.

Sure, it shows the light in that yellow room, his red-tinged hair and all the makings of a pretty nursery, but it doesn’t give you impact it had on me. The absolute hopefulness of it all. The elation and zeal with which this child approaches each day and my own hopefulness to be the mother that he needs and deserves. This is the feeling that was held in this moment each day and I think it would taste like a candy sweet tart.

Yet another might be Placid Fall.

Seeing colors of fall in the Adirondacks is a cherished experience. The October air in Lake Placid is crisp and fresh and the light reflects the golden, red and orange of the dying leaves of summer.

The people you see are enjoying fall’s light, but are also beginning to think about the brutal winter and preparing themselves for its coming. This memory bottle would capture this duality and contain faint notes of wet wood. But my bottle would have a certain bitterness too for this was a beautiful experience during a painful time. If I drank from this bottle now, I might remember how disappointed I was in myself, which would most certainly serve me well even if sour and a little tough to swallow.

Or what about Springing in the Cliff?

Our neighborhood is a one part turn-of-the-century, one part bohemian rhapsody, one part salsa verde and one part steel-edged ax. When I walk its streets, I feel them all at once. Its charm is lost on some and reveled by others. And when I juxtapose this complexity with my toddler daughter in the light of a spring afternoon, well I think it’s nothing short of sublime.

This memory of my daughter springing from one step to another with all her will and might captures the past, present and the future in an instant. To drink from this bottle would bring a song of sirens, ranchera music and childrens’ laughter and it would taste of organic cucumbers and hot chilies.

I wish our house had a cooler all its own, because I would love to sip its stories. Built in 1916, we have always wondered what its walls might tell us if they could talk. A few years back, we were lucky enough to find the grandson of the original owner and he shared some photos from the 1920s of his father and aunt with their dog on the front porch.

Although both of these children have already seen their lives through to completion, it turns out the story of our house is on repeat. Almost 100 years later, our little boy and girl sat on those same steps with their similarly spotted dog. I wonder how the children in this photo felt in their home? Did their experiences bear any resemblance to those inside the memory bottles of our own children?

So, maybe I’ll work on this memory bottle contraption, but in the meantime, I will have to use words to tell my stories and hope that they can convey the subtleties. I believe this notion is why I like old things – things with a story. When I go to places that are all shiny and new with no scars or lacking the dents of time, they leave me feeling empty. This might also be why when I meet people that don a perfect façade, I immediately lose interest. For such places have no bottles in their cooler and such people are afraid to open theirs. There’s no question that we should not live in the past, but to live with purpose requires an awareness of both the bitter and sweet memories that make us who we are.

Perhaps this is also why I like people that are not afraid to share their stories – both the joyful and the sorrowful. And I mean share them freely, with no cares for what I might say or for what I might think. These types of people are like old houses – they have a past, stories, trials, haunts, and triumphs. They have fizzy sodas in their cooler and are more tasty and bubbly because they first bother to capture them and then are fearless to open and share them.

These are just a few of the flavors that you might see in my cooler. What if you could come to my house and we could open up this cooler, take out a bottle or two and share these notes together? Who knows, maybe instead of bringing a bottle of wine to this party, you might opt to bring a fizzy soda of your own to share with us all. The conversation would be so much richer as we pour these sodas into chilled glasses – some of you might like ice, some might prefer without. Can you just imagine this evening? Sitting together sipping the notes from each others pasts and interpreting these bottled moments. As our evening comes to a close, we would depart one another, but we would leave with a deeper, more profound understanding of what it is like to live behind those eyes.

I do wonder, which flavor would you bring?


One Comment on “Memory Bottles”

  1. kentrollins says:

    Mam, my family taught me a recipe for memories that I still try and recreat everyday, it always started with love, the love of a family, the love you have for your home and its surroundings, a heaping helping of understanding, a huge amount of friendship, a batch of inspiration and a lifetime of laughter, stir well and share with friends. Memories will get you through the hardest of times and make life easier to swallow. As I told my brother after my fathers death, The memories will help dry your tears and fill the whole in your heart. Great story!

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