Wednesday, February 19, 2014


"Dearest Kashena,

Do you ever wonder how many things are lost during the course of history? How many things in your life that you've forgotten, but you only hope that at least one person who was there remembers? That used to make me insane. That's why I started to journal. I didn't want to lose anything, and it makes me cry sometimes when I look back at what I wrote and can't remember what I was talking about. And we lose so many dreams too. But the things that are important to us, we remember. My dad doesn't remember his high school graduation. I barely remember anything in my life. But I remember the time Dylan cut his hand with a scissors when he was trying to make me a board game about dogs for my birthday. And I remember the sock pants. And I remember that the first time you came to my New Years party, you were wearing green corduroy overalls, a gray shirt, your hair was in braids, and you had that greet hat that's like ..., only it's cool, and it looks like a hat. I'm not saying the hat's important, but I'm saying it's a memory. Not the kind you have to write down to remind you of it, but the kind that triggers itself."

I've started looking back through a bunch of notes, trying to pick something to write about in order to start working on this blog again, but at every turn I came across something that embarrassed me or made me sad, or nervous, until I came across this lovely card from my best friend, Kate*. She wrote it as part of a pack of letters she gave me before she headed off to college early, right before I started 11th grade. We were both devastated we'd be apart from one another, and her goodbye gift was sweet and thoughtful and generous. We'd been avid note-writers from the beginning, and the sudden void would have been so much worse without a set of notes I could delve into from time to time.

I talked to her about this card yesterday, and while we both agreed it was beautifully written - especially for a 16-year-old, I broke the news that part of her self-triggering memory is false. I've never owned a pair of corduroy overalls. Both fashion-blind Kashena and fashion-conscious Kashena concur on this.

It's a nitpicky thing to pick up on, especially considering the poetry of the card, but it reminded me of this Radiolab podcast on memory. They said that every time you access a memory you essentially re-create it, and in most cases, re-write it, dampening the truth every time until no one can be certain - especially if you remember it often - what is the true memory. From the beginning, before she had a chance to write it down, Kate had re-written the memory.

She still remembers the day of the New Years party, and after talking more about it we agreed I wasn't wearing overalls. I don't remember the day at all, so I'm willing to agree that all the other details are correct; for now, they remain static in her mind and on the page.

 The other thing that hasn't changed over time is our desire to keep each other in frame. I have hundreds of journal entries, as she has, about our lives - what it was like before she left, and after. We have lengthy, separate accounts of how we've both grown, closer together and apart alike, for the last 19 years. If you had to pick one person, outside your parents, who knows you best - for me, it would be Kate. I trust she knows me now, and will know me forever. This is comforting in the extreme, of course. What better feeling can you have, knowing there is someone who understands who you are as a person, and will always? As humans, we crave this understanding, this connection, and I am lucky enough to have found it as a teenager.

The time has come, however, for me to move away from this comfort - into the letters and notes that make me uncomfortable, that reveal what feels like too much. Things that are honest accounts of a darker adolescence, things that still follow me today. I have them on paper, sharp details contrasting my re-written, softer memories, and it's time to face them.

*name changed to keep as much anonymity as possible.