There’s a ridiculous scene that I adore in Forget Paris: Debra Winger is driving to the vet a poor pigeon who had become stuck to sticky paper set out to catch a mouse; as she hits a bump in the road, the pigeon flies up and becomes stuck to her head, sticky paper and all. Within a story of the most memorable events of Billy Crystal and Winger’s strange relationship, this one captures the way love and life is more than sweet under the moon memories.
That funny slapstick moment also reminds me that memories are like that sticky paper. Sometimes a memory sticks and won’t let go. That’s a good thing for some memories. The day my daughter was born and the way she turned her head to look at me when I first spoke her name to her, and the day my son slept in my daughter’s arms and everything about her softened are two memories I don’t think I’ll ever want to forget. Then like Winger’s embarrassing, dangerous flapping pigeon, there are those other moments: when I explained to my son that his sister was in a coma, like in the movies and he agreed that she looked like Sleeping Beauty (despite the tubes and machines); his face went tight and he told me that this was different because the person lying there was his sister. How does one let go of that memory? And should I?
A sister in law told me last week that my daughter needs to get past her bad memories. I get what she means. The sentiment echoed a question that my son asked me: “Why bother hanging onto painful memories?” Yet, aren’t some of even the unhappy events in our lives teachable moments that can help us navigate through life? Are we to cling to the happiest moments, as if a raft in the middle of a stormy ocean? Which memories should we release? Can we release them?
What is one memory you would like to let go of?