As My Memoir Gathers Dust…

Ana was right.

She said weeks later I would find some sand.

And I did.

I unfolded a baby bathing suit and there was a precious thimbleful of black volcanic sand from Playa El Zonte, right there in our laundry room (i.e., garage). I smelled the suit. I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes trying to transport myself back to the beach.

It was impossible.

I kept trying.

I kept inhaling.

I kept my eyes closed.

The beach wouldn’t come back to me, and I couldn’t fly back to the beach.

BUT, I came close. I smiled. The memories packed into each day unfurled too quickly to see in detail, but visible enough to…


the experience.

This is why my journals are so valuable. Our memories fade. It’s the tragedy of existence, I think.

I am a documentarian.

I’m not that sentimental. What is it, then, that makes me want to photograph and write about what I see and feel?

Smell, touch, and taste are so fleeting.

If you could only see! I’ve filled bags and bags of journals (which I’d grab in a fire, and actually did once). I have GIGABYTES, not megabytes, of writing.

During grad school, from 1998-2000, not only was I earning an M.A. in Writing, and completing all of my assignments, but I was writing my own stuff day and night. I wrote more than 200 poems, many about Latin America.

I thought then and I do now that the key to getting published was, number one, being prolific. Like Van Gogh, I figured if I just produced and produced and produced, SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE would HAVE TO discover my legacy.

But, what defines a legacy? How would an heir of mine navigate GIGABYTES, unless I leave a map? What about all my passwords? Should I store them in a vault? Email them to my mom? (Yes, I know there are web places that store passwords). My concern is not so much the technological hurdles, but INTEREST.

I am starting a collection of records and keepsakes for my daughter, much like my mother amassed for me, in a baby book. My baby book for Adela comes with a keepsake box. The more I put into it, the more of a treasure it becomes. I was inspired to do so by a recent trip home to Chicago, where my sisters and I (for the umpteenth time) pored over our baby books, laughed, touched locks of our fine baby hair, compared dimples and drawings and milestones… We grow closer with each other, and better acquainted with our former selves. We come away feeling complete, secure, CHERISHED. How valuable is that?

Now, my dear readers, if you know my husband personally, please tell him to delay no further and contribute where it says, “All About Dad.” (My section is filled out, and I’ve affixed a printed playlist of favorite music.)

At the moment, my regret is not bringing back a jar of volcanic sand from our first family vacation. I have a feeling we might return to Casa Tia Tita, but it may not be filled with as many firsts for our daughter, which made it so exciting.

The truth remains that as hard as we try, we cannot recreate our vacation, our youth, our weddings, our first steps, our final words–we have to relish the flavors while we’re chewing and be satisfied.

Here’s a question I ask over and over: Why not love life?

Over and over I encourage my friends: Drop whatever is weighing you down. Freedom is in the mind. I don’t know what I would do if I were unhappy; I’d probably fly away. I know there are consequences, and the consequences are ever larger the more years I put on, but I don’t think my attitude will ever change. If it does, if you know me, and you STOP describing me as wild at heart, kill me. At least strap a pair of wings to my back and push me off a cliff so I remember to inhale the essence of life deeply.

My ideal is to pursue what I love and eat meals with my favorite folks. If I’m ever pursuing what I love and eating my meals alone (like the year in Nicaragua, where I hated their custom of removing extra place settings as I sat down–I always thought, Hey, company might come), then what’s it all for?

Those years I spent traveling solo and keeping a diary as company yielded prolific field notes that I hope Adelita reads. That would make me happy. I hope she reads about Nicaragua and Cuba and Guatemala and Spain. Those are some good stories no one I know witnessed. Those journals are my legacy.

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About MommyTheorist

Editor, writer, photographer, and new mom
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