You can go home again, but …

It happens this way …

A few weeks ago I flew to NJ to visit relatives and friends. I hadn’t been back in three years and it was time.

My 94-year-old mother lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Ewing. One of my two brothers and his family are five miles away in Titusville.

Mom and Me

My mom and I at Seaside Park on a picture-perfect September afternoon

The big epiphany of this trip? Memory is a trickster. Siblings who had the same parents and went to the same schools have very different interpretations of the same events. I call these my “brown outs.” At least I remember what happened, but my brothers would disagree about how or why they occurred.

And then there are “black outs”:  the holes into which memories have completely disappeared.

For example, when I was an English teacher at Mount St. Mary’s Academy in the early 70s, I accompanied a group of students on a fine arts trip to Italy. We were one of three groups on this adventure – a detail I totally forgot. In fact, I forgot most of the trip! What I remember:

Visiting Assisi and Cimabue’s crumbling murals of St. Francis.

Crying when I saw St. Clare’s golden locks enclosed in a glass case. (I don’t remember why!)

Being lifted off my feet by a group of sturdy Germans as we crushed our way through the Sistine Chapel – which was much too small for my taste!

Being diverted to Montreal on our flight home because JFK was fogged in. God bless the Canadians who shuttled us to various hotels in the middle of the night.

The rest of the ten days is a blank. Good thing a sister/friend who was my traveling companion has such a great memory. When I saw her on this NJ trip, she shared dozens of events that eluded me. I was happy to hear we climbed to the top of St. Peter’s dome – that was a feat I’d want to claim! – and that we ate meat on Good Friday because our more rule-rigid companions grabbed up all the fish – what enlightened flexibility!

Memory is a trickster for sure. I’m still trying to sort out what-I-did-when-with-whom at various moments in my life. I’ve taught in four schools, lived in three states, and presented management programs to more than a quarter of a million people before retiring in 2008. Good thing I have astute friends and acquaintances who can bear witness to the good stuff and have the grace to keep me blacked out about the less-than-good!





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