Lightning flashes and the movies

“How are you doing?” people ask me. “Are you OK?” And in all truth I can answer them, “Yes, I’m OK, I’m doing fine.” I suppose they expect that I should be feeling grief, or great sadness or be suffering a terrible case of mourning after the death of my mother. But I don’t really feel that way. I sort of feel… just…normal. I think it has to do with the fact that for many years now I have lived so far away from her – across an ocean. I maybe only got to see her once a year for about 2 weeks at the most. While we often talked on the phone during that time away, she wasn’t a constant physical presence in my life. I find myself still thinking and acting as though she is still just “over there”. But sometimes I see something or hear something or do something and like a lightning flash through my brain, I think, “oooohh, I have to tell Mom that.” And equally fast, I realize, “Oh, I can’t.” Then comes this deep sadness washing over me momentarily. But soon enough I am once again back to normal until the next time lightning strikes.

I have lived so far away from old friends and family and for such a long time now that I’ve become like one of those old movie projectors. And I have become a repository of old films. I carry around in my head short clips from movies recorded during my life – in Budd Lake, in Brooklyn, in Manhattan, on trips upstate to the Catskills or to Maine or California or back to New Jersey. They replay suddenly against the inside of my skull without warning. I’ve been collecting those clips a long time now – scenes of friends and family I rarely see – frozen in time. A few years ago I met someone who reminded me very much of an old friend in New York. The friend here in Stockholm was in her late 50s but the friend she reminded me of is now in her 70s. If I were to tell the Stockholm friend she reminds me of someone in their 70s she might get insulted. But in truth she reminds me of my friend as she was 20 years ago before I moved away and when the image of her was captured in the movie in my head.

Until I can capture new scenes upon my next visit to the States, I just replay the earlier versions I have stored in my memories. But now, I’m starting to gather a small collection of films that no longer can be updated. My grandmother, my father, and now my mother are among those films. There will be no sequels made of their stories. They remain the same, etched in time and memory – classics. Waiting for me to turn on the projector light and replay them.

5 Responses to “Lightning flashes and the movies”

  • claude pigeon Says:

    The tattered projection screen upon which the memories of my life are played out is not synchronized in time. I see my parents youthful and vibrant then older and frail. I see the dramas of my life rolling non seqentially My memory is an busy editor and much is left on the cutting floor…Proms and plays, weddings and funerals, holidays and vacations all re-enacted pell mell. The show will get longer as the years go by until one day, the lamp will flicker and fail and then I will become a memory on my childrens’ screens…

  • Debbie Gerber Says:

    BEAUTIFUL… just beautiful… What a lovely way to describe the way our memories play in our brains… Touching analogy,
    Thank you,

  • Claris Says:

    I think people (like me) don’t know how to react or what to say so they look to you for cues about an appropriate response. I’m happy to hear your mother’s passing, as difficult as it was, was not horribly traumatic for you and that you have good memories to cherish. Wonderful analogy! I have appreciated your sharing this entire experience with us through your writing.

  • Roz Davis Says:

    You struck a chord when you talked about seeing or hearing something and my wanting to share that ‘something’ with mom your – but in that same instant remembering that she’s no longer there for you to call! I still do this!

  • Lisa Muscatiello Says:

    It was a pleasure getting to know you; wish it was under more pleasant circumstances. You are a smart, kind and compassionate woman and I must recognize your mother for raising such an incredible woman. I will miss seeing the tall, stunning redhead when I visit Monroe Village! All the best to you and your family. Much respect and admiration…Lisa (nurse @ Homeside)

Leave a Reply