Monday, October 15, 2007

Jenny in my shoes

The Persistance of Memory ~ Dalì

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. For the occassion, a group of his friends in Italy gathered around a computer and had a party for him via Skype, with a popping champagne bottle and everything. As I watched these people on the computer screen, I was so struck by their sameness. To me, it looked as if time had stopped, and these people were just as they were when I left Italy.

I then realized that mine was an absurb thought. Of course they were the same. I only left Italy 4 months ago. But the eternity I feel between now and that moment somehow hasn't rubbed off on others, and the sameness of those we left behind was striking.

Later I tried to remember my last day in Italy. And I can't. I can't rememeber closing my suitcases, the ride to the airport, the last family dinner, any teary goodbyes. I can't remember what the weather was like, if I slept or not on that last night, who I said my farewells to. I can't remember anything. The persistence of my memory has been getting progressively worse as I age, and this was the proverbial Italian colmo (apex, height of heights, can't get any worse!).

Maybe I need one of those horrible memory game boys that they advertise on television to scare people like me. Flash cards for grown ups. Memory is a tricky business for me. I've moved around alot in my life, making drastic, dramatic changes that transformed almost every aspect of my life along the way. Each place I have lived has its own specific flavors, colors, smells and sounds. The person I was in New York City looks to me like a character from a film. I can see her walking in my shoes down the sidewalk and sleeping in my bed in that basement apartment, but I'm not always sure she was really me. The same holds true for the other places I've lived. The places I've passed chunks of my life. There is an essence that comes to mind, and the details fall away. And nowhere is this more true than Italy, where I also lived as a foreigner in another language.

Did I used to remember more viscerally? I don't know. I don't remember... As I try to recall the tumultuous final days of my life in Italy, all I can see is Jenny. Jenny as she struggled to just be Jenny and not need so desperately to still be Jennifer. Jenny waking and walking and living a life that I now can only see as if in a slide show. Scenes from a long, struggling, unexpected and innately romantic story. Jenny in my shoes.


Carol said...

My persistent thought as I read your post was, 'That's because you NEEDED this move! You were close to shriveling up and being blown away.'

I'm glad you're here.

Happy b-day to hubby!


anno said...

I believe we are always in the process of creating ourselves. Some makeovers, though, are more dramatic than others. What a peculiar experience to see evidence that you were only recently living such a different life in a completely different place.

Echoing Carol, it was time for you to return.

anno said...

And Happy Birthday to MacGyver!

Greg said...

Interesting how very maleable identity is, isn't it? Perhaps at bottom we're nothing but a collection of impressions and sensations. Welcome home.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Do you feel like you're Jennifer now? And happy b'day to M! I sometimes think we compartmentalize memories and can only access them when we're ready to. I know that's happened to me with aspects of my sister's death.
There were many things I couldn't access for ten full years, and then this year, when the hurt became more... static? I'm not sure what word to use here, then I was able to access many more memories that I had stored away, both about her final months, and about her in general.

Brillig said...

Ha! I bet you didn't sleep at all--that would explain the memory loss. :-D

Happy B-day to MacGyver. What a fun way for his Italian friends to celebrate.

I loved this post, by the way. I know exactly what you're talking about when you say you're surprised at how "the same" they all are when you've been through such a monumental change.

Jennifer said...

Happy birthday to MacGyver!

That was a great idea for his friends to throw him a Skype birthday party. What thoughtful friends he has.

I wonder if those final days will come back to you after you have settled in a little more. A lot has happened since you moved, and it's only been four months. Plus, you have been so focused on the move and organizing everything that goes along with it.

Or maybe you are just someone who lives fully in the present.

The Passionate Palate said...

What a moving and personal post. I completely understand what you are feeling, remembering and not remembering. I, too, have moved a lot and been a lot of differnet "Jenis". I believe that we have many different selves. You have a writer-self, a mother-self, a wife-self, an Italian-self, an American-self. Yes, they are all different and they are all you! It is interesting to watch those different selves emerge, fade or do a dance with each other. I guess I try to honor each one and remember that whatever one is in the lead at the moment, doesn't make it the permanent, only one. Does that make any sense?