Memory

Memory is a funny thing, it is so different for each person. The same event can take on significantly different meanings based on how we remember it and then how we retell it, and then these events that are seemingly ‘facts’ get warped even further based on how they are perceived by those we tell our stories to.

I’m halfway through ‘Everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume’, an anthology compiled by Jennifer O’Connell. It’s a selection of humorous and at times heart-breaking stories about growing up and feeling out of place, about being confused about your body, parents getting divorced, falling in love, and handling the expectations of parents, teachers and peers as a young girl. One thing that has struck me so far is the way that these different women remember certain details from the stories more than others, based on how they resonated with them. A small detail in a story might be exactly what one person is feeling and the part that sticks with them, a detail they remember years later. It got me thinking about memory a lot and how we consciously or subconsciously choose to remember things a certain way, perhaps to protect ourselves. Maybe it’s our minds way of helping us heal so that we can move on and still hope to fall in love, despite our parent’s divorce, or grow up and still feel beautiful and love our bodies regardless of how we were tormented by that bully at school – or maybe not. The way we remember things and the things we choose to remember – the slant a story takes, is influenced by so many different things I wish I could look inside people’s minds – or my own haha, and just observe at what point a memory changes or shifts.

For example, take a simple memory of swinging on monkey bars, staring up at the canopy of leaves above and watch them swinging as we arc, like a wide panning camera. At what point does this remembering metamorphosis and become a rose tinted memory of a glorious childhood. When does it change from ‘man I am so cool I skipped two bars today’ – a memory tinged with pride, to ‘the world grew quiet as I swung from bar to bar, a carefree child unburdened by the worries of adulthood and the carnal lust that grew in me not long after’ like how does this shift even happen?

There are so many memories I have. I’m one of those people who remember everything. Like Estha in The God of Small things, I am the keeper of history. I store everything in this head of mine. I am probably every parents’ worst nightmare because I remember everything, the things that are good and also the bad. And in a child’s mind, the bad things are magnified and stick more because they are so confusing and bewildering to a child who does not realise what it means. I wonder if my memory of events in my childhood are the same for my parents and grandparents to whom they would have been insignificant.

For example my first memory is of being lifted off a table or window sill or something by my mother. I remember the ground under my feet, feeling weightless, seeing the pale pink of my shoes and socks a blur under me, and then the softness of her cheek when I tried to kiss her. This is the first thing I have any memory of and I would have been under a year and a half because my brother was not yet born. This memory will always be special to me because no one ever told me about it, and I know I could only have seen that from my perspective, the depth of the ground, how far away it seemed, of my mum’s hands under my armpits lifting me up and the weightlessness after. I am so glad that my first memory is such a beautiful one.

The next thing I can distinctly remember is standing on the window sill in a nightie, hiding behind the curtain and looking out the window. My foot was dangling off absentmindedly and my brother who was lying on the sofa, leaned up and bit the heel of my foot. It didn’t hurt. It was almost a nudge saying hey. And I remember that.

There are other things I remember that seemed scary at the time but now I understand more. I remember when my brother was in hospital and my grand-mother stayed the night with him, and the rest of us went back home and everyone was shouting at me. It made me sad and feel horrible and I remember thinking I hope mama never stays away again because when she’s not there everyone shouts at me. But really everyone was probably stressed because they didn’t know what was wrong with him, snapped at me a few times and I remembered this differently as a child – because it was confusing and scary and I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know that my two year old brother had fainted off the top off a slide and fallen off, that he was on a drip in hospital and no one knew what was wrong. Though I would have seen him fall, and would have been at his side in the hospital, these are facts I do not remember. I remember only the feeling of confusion and loneliness at home afterwards even though it was probably a minute detail in the grander scheme of things, but as a child, this was the moment that stood out to me. That and the wooden splint that was strapped to my brother’s hand and cut him. I remember hating the nurse who did that.

I have come to realise that the things I miss, the things I mourn, or love or feel anything about – are not the things or places themselves, it’s the memory of what happened there, or the people I spent time with. I do not miss my childhood home, I miss the memories of time spent playing there, of sitting on my haunches for hours making islands with ants out of broken brick and mud, floating my ants down a ‘river’ on a big leaf and getting lost in this world I created. I miss playing cricket on neighbourhood streets with friends after school, not the streets themselves. And as much as memories of the past incite deep and intense feelings, so do ‘memories’ of the future, if that makes sense.

They’re not exactly memories of the future – more fantasies. Recently when I moved back home from Melbourne. I found that a lot of my clothes were missing which upset me a lot. It’s definitely a case of first world problems but after a year of living with one suitcase of clothes I was really looking forward to moving back home and having more options. Needless to say, when I got home and found half my clothes missing, I felt pretty crap about not having them and also crap for feeling like that. Because a part of me felt like I didn’t have a right to miss these clothes so much because they are material, and so many people live in poverty and don’t have anything but the clothes on their back and I have seen people who lead that life so I should know better.

But after thinking about memory while I was driving to work this morning, I feel slightly better about it because I realised that what I miss, is not the clothes themselves, but my memory of what I did in those clothes and how they made me feel. I don’t miss my warm maroon woollen sweater, I miss the texture of the knit fabric and how it made me feel feeling the warmth of someone’s body touching me through it. I miss the memory of how I watched it for weeks in Dotti, going down to 50% off and then 30% off before I finally bought it for $15, when I was working minimum wage earning $13.50 an hour at the mall. I do not miss my bright yellow ethnic dress with brown patterns and wooden beads in the straps for the dress itself, but because my grandmother gave it to me. In fact she altered it so it fit me and I could never throw away something my grandma gave me. I still have a top she bought for me when I was thirteen that I haven’t worn in years (although it still fits me) that I could never throw away because it carries with it the memory of her hands on them, warm with the love she has for me.

We all remember memories in different ways, I remember memories with dates, songs, and the clothes I was wearing. I remember every iconic moment in my life when I was 16 – 18 with dates that I consciously committed to memory because that was a year of treasuring every first, no matter how small or insignificant. It was a time when I romanticised every single action or thought and linked it to the date when it happened. Next came the era of the songs – perhaps that still continues. A single song can make me burst into tears or smile a slow half-smile based on the memory of what I did while I was listening to it, who I spent it with, the feelings I felt when I was listening to it. As for the clothes – I do not know how these clothes simply disappeared, but I miss the memories I have had wearing them and the fantasies of what I would do in them in the future.

I distinctly remember a pretty pale pink baby-doll dress I bought in India. I only wore it once – dressed up as a fairy for a Peter Pan themed Law stein, but I remember thinking at the time, “man this dress was a waste of money I can’t wear it to anything expect dress-up parties because I look like a child in it, but oh well, I’ll save it for when my daughter turns three and I can have a Fairy themed dress up party”. Like what the actual crap. In my mind, I had already jumped 10 years ahead and had not only planned what my baby girl’s birthday party theme would be but what I would wear as well. I think it was this keen loss of a ‘memory’ – and it really felt like a memory – I could see the pink helium balloons, her chubby hands holding onto my calves feeling shy when her friends came home, I could see her blowing out her candles with a big whoosh of air, and me and my husband watching her proudly in the background. I could see all of this and through it all I was wearing the baby-doll dress. And now that it’s gone, I feel like it’s not just the dress, but this fantasy I had of me as a mother, of my relationship with my daughter, of the ‘getting-it-right’ model parent pride I had. With the loss of that dress, I have also lost a little bit of that reassurance that I will be an amazing mother, for though it may have been a fantasy, it felt like a memory to me.

To the memories I have had, and the ones I will make in the future, to the memories of things I have experienced only in dreams, and ones I have made while awake, I hope they continue to make me happy long after I lose the people and places they are made up of.

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A Reflection on ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki’ by Haruki Murakami

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I got the book out of the library on an impulse. It was one of those perfect accidents you might say. Almost like the alignment of a particular group of people that results in a chemical bonding of elements, the meeting of two minds, a once in a life time event like the Big Bang, that may never be reproduced. Kind of like these five friends.

Translated from the original Japanese novel by Philip Gabriel, I never once felt that I was missing out on anything but I do wonder if the words sound better in Japanese. If my limitations as a person have hindered me in absorbing their meaning. Tsukuru in Japanese means ‘to create’ but it can also have the simpler meaning ‘to make or build’. In choosing to give his son the simpler character, his father did not want him to feel like he had to strive to fulfil his name and buckle under the pressure of having to create something. He let him know that he was loved, regardless of what he did. It was only fitting that Tsukuru grew up with a love of train stations and went on to become an engineer and build train stations.

Despite the role they all played in their group of five, their cohesive unit – ‘an orderly harmonious community’ – Tsukuru always wondered if the others would miss him if he was gone, and if he was a valuable member of this unit or not. While the others all had colours in their names – Shiro, Kuru, Ao and Ake, he was the only one who did not. He was colourless Tsukuru Tazaki’.

The novel begins with Tsukuru on the brink of death, only hesitating to step through its door as he was unsure of the method he should choose. The language that Murakami uses is simple yet descriptive “Like Jonah into the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowls of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant void”. Like the blurb on the back of the book promised, Murakami’s writing is extremely Kafkaesque in the way it points out the absurdity of our world and the way we relate to one another.

Tsukuru grew to depend on his friends group and although he was studying in Tokyo after high school they were still an invaluable part of his life and his only friends. When they ruthlessly cut him out of their lives and disowned him, this ostracising affected him deeply. It is only when his new girlfriend Sara hears about his past that she forces him to confront those demons and go back to meet his old friends and find out what happened. I identified deeply with Tsukuru particularly his ostracising and the not knowing. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything close to the chemistry that all five friends had together but I have certainly had deep friendships with people which I have lost, at times organically and at times abruptly. So it’s easy to understand what he must have gone through when those friends were the only thing he had.

What do you let yourself think and feel, how do you explain the last sixteen years of isolation to yourself, when you find out that one of your friends accused you of raping her, and although the others knew it to be untrue, they went along with it as they had to accept one person and reject the other. How do you rationalise the sixteen years of your life you spent alone – the metamorphosis your mind and body went under like a rock being crystalised under intense heat and pressure – how do you come to terms with the fact that that needn’t have happened if you had only asked – if you had only reasoned. And then to realise that perhaps it was the only alternative, perhaps it had to be either him or Shiro and that his friends accepting that he had in fact raped her was the only thing they could do to protect her fragile mental state.

The novel ends ambiguously and in a way this works best as one finishes with a feeling of catharsis, like the outcome does not in fact matter. Although his friends left him, and Haida left him, he is not an empty vessel. As a young man he had truly believed something, he was a person capable of believing something with his whole heart, a heart full of hope – and despite what will happen in the future he will keep on hoping. Sara may choose to be with him, or she may choose the other man – and tomorrow he will know and there is nothing he can do about it. But he has been through the worst, he has swum through the cold water, and at some point, Kuru had loved him. He is not just a colourless nothing, he – Tsukuru Tazaki – is full of colour.

Top Deck: Florida Beaches, Miami and Disney World

Woke up at 7 and wore my bikini under my clothes ready for an awesome day at Panama Beach City but the weather was abysmal. Still went swimming anyway but not before we got stopped by security guards at the mall because they thought we were terrorists. Apparently you aren’t allowed back packs or shopping bags at the movies. I am sure our bright yellow Forever 21 bags and polka dotted back pack looked very suspicious.

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Slept heaps on the bus on the way and then bought 4 singlets at Forever 21 for $1.20 each. Great find. Yay for not doing Laundry for another week. Got soaked at Panama Beach City and it almost felt like a Bollywood movie running in the rain but not as glamorous when I smelt like a wet dog after. Shopping with Ellie is awesome because she never lets me buy anything that doesn’t fit me perfectly and always tells me when something doesn’t suit me. Also we both love bargains!

Wrote this on the bus on the way to PCB.

Went out with the group to Spinnakers which was hilarious as everyones true colours came out when they were drunk. Safe to say first impressions really do count. Was a hilarious night and had fun dancing with Ellie and Erin. Narrowly avoided potential argument with scary guy of African American descent who Erin kept banging into while she was dancing. Girl friend was sent to move us away.

Left for Orlando the next day and I was feeling kinda sick after drinking so much ice all night so got some cold and flu tablets. Waste of $15.98 that could have gone towards a tour, or food, or museum entrance. Ver ver Annoying. Slept on the bus and watched Mean Girls. Which will never get old. Awesome movie. Awesome. For the first time I could actually say “Ahem ahem. I feel sick” with a genuine blocked nose. Arrived in Orlando and bought my Disney ticket and planned out my whole day with all the rides I was going to do, the order, what was close together on the map. All that went out the window when I arrived at Disney World and felt like a small child.

Eddie dropped us off at Disney and we got the bus to Magic Kingdom. My Disney experience was completely different to Universal Studios for several reasons. Partly because I was sick and didn’t have as much drive and energy to do all the rides I wanted to, and partly because Bec and I had completely different energy levels, interests and styles of travelling so we both compromised for each other. It was great having someone else to share that experience with and talk about all the rides we went on, grab each other excitedly when we saw a character we knew, but I wish I had pushed through the heat and my flu and gone on a couple more rides. I also wish my phone hadn’t died by 9.30pm which meant I couldn’t get any photos of the Fireworks at night and the Magic Kingdom all lit up.

My favourite rides were Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Under the Sea. Also loved the festival of fantasy parade, fireworks and electric parade. I wish I’d gotten to do Haunted Mansion, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear ride. Oh well. Next time. Got the shuttle back at 11.45pm and Ellie was still up, talked for bit about Harry Potter’s diagon Alley and Hogsmead where she went at Universal Studios and then went to bed.

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Left lateish the next day and stopped at Siesta Beach which was a beautiful white sand beach and nice warm water. Didn’t go swimming. Realised I left my grey shorts behind at Panama Beach which was really annoying. Must’ve hung them up to dry after the thunderstorm and then forgotten all about them. They were hand-me-downs and I still wore them for 5 years. I don’t think anyone can say I don’t make my clothes last.

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Had an included dinner at Asian Takeaway restaurant, then drinks at Line dancing bar Dixieland Roadhouse. Was absolutely crack up there were 25 cent drinks so everyone got pretty tipsy really quickly and the line dancing soon turned into squiggle dancing. Locals got sick of us pretty soon. There are videos from that night that I never want to watch again.

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I realised, not for the first time, that my feelings are heightened so much when I drink and conversations that I could laugh off and avoid with ease sober, made me cry in the cab back home when I wasn’t. I pride myself on being a happy drunk so that was an exception to the rule for me. It wasn’t even a mean conversation, just a case of FOMO on my side and regret I think. Got back to the hotel and changed into our pjs, then Ellie and I got some snacks and climbed the gate into the pool and sat by the pool talking to Simon.

Left for Marathon Keys the next day, woke up feeling like crap but with amazing hair. Got caught in a thunderstorm at the everglades. In a boat. In a swamp. Hilarious moment when I fell out of the boat on the deck and looked up shocked, as if I had no idea what just happened to me. Yes Anushka, that is ground under you. Yes it is wooden. Yes you fell down. Held a snake. Pfft. It wasn’t very friendly. I love the snakes that glide up your arm and stick their tongue out. Cheeky devils.

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Spent the day at Key West with Ellie and had a really nice time walking around, went swimming at Southernmost point Beach which is 90 miles from Cuba. Then walked to the beach at Fort Zachary which was next to an Army Naval Base, walked in and out of random shops, went into bars and asked for water and then scuttled away, saw the Ernest Hemingway house and watched the sun set over Mallory Square. Walked around with Amy, Simon, Brii, Ben and Lauren after that and then sang on the bus all the way home. Long long day.

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Drove to Miami the next day and stopped at Little Havana for lunch where we had a Cuban lunch with fried plaintain, strew, rice and chicken. Amazing paintings on the walls and street art around the place. Also saw domino Park where old men play gather and play dominoes.

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Then drove to the city, walked around the boardwalk and had dinner from 7-11. Drank in the lobby and in Ben and Brii’s room. Hilarious moment when Ellie and I got locked in the stairwell and really needed to pee and we had to run all the way down 8 flights of stairs to the basement to get out and ended up in the back of the kitchen. Where I fell over a box and was sprawled all over the ground holding a six pack of Smirnoff ice. Great look Anushka. Played Never have I ever at Pre-Drinks and then went to The Mansion and Ellie managed to get in with Amy’s drivers license was a pretty fun night. Met a guy called Renee who was from Brazil originally I think and he bought us a drink each. Really nice guy. Hung out in the lobby till 4am with the crew and then went to bed.

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Woke up late to a thunderstorm. Had breakfast, did laundry and then went out to south Beach with Ellie and Dennis. Then met up with Wayde and Sean, went swimming a bit and made a sandcastle. Walked along the Art Deco Point of Ocean Drive, then Lincoln Road shops. Got back by Cab, showered, got a burger and fries for dinner and then met the new girls. Hung out with Dennis, Ellie and Simon in the bar for a while. Went back to the room and did squats and crunches with Ellie. Watched second half of Theory of Everything.

Left at 8.30am and drove to the Kennedy Space Centre which was 3.5 hours away. Went around with Andrea and we saw the launchpads for the rockets, the remains of space shuttles, touched a moonrock which was pretty cool, and went on a rocket simulator which was shit.

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Watching footage of people all over the world reacting to the moment when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon was incredible. It was such an iconic moment I wish I could have witnessed it myself. My mother always claims she remembers when JFK died but really she wasn’t even born yet. In the same way I feel like I remember when man walked on the moon. As if another self may have watched it. I remember when Princess Diana died. It was an afternoon at home. My mum was shocked. I had no idea who she was. I remember when 9/11 happened. I was 9 years old. I remember walking to school wearing a brown beanie and I was planning to talk about it for current events but everyone already knew. These are moments I will never forget and will tell my kids about.

Did a lot of writing on the bus that day….a lot of writing, a lot of thinking…

Had BBQ for dinner and then went swimming at cocoa beach. Was pretty fun. This is our last night in Florida before we head to Savannah.

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