Things, People, and Memories

It’s funny what memories we keep unknowingly. Then suddenly they wash over us and we feel as if we are transported. It is a particular feeling: incredibly vivid, and yet there’s always that distance. A distance that reminds us that it’s something of the past to which we may never return.

Tonight, I had two mundane memories. The first occurred as I was mixing a lemonade mix. I felt a rush of excitement. I was running out to our backyard to pick some lemons from our bush. I carefully selected the yellowest ones. I washed them, cut them in half, and then began to twist every ounce of liquid from them with our plastic juicer. I mixed them with water and probably much more sugar than I needed with a big wooden spoon. The wooden spoon is important. I remember the strange texture of it as I sampled the drink to make sure it was just right. I was so proud to have made something. Then, I began to miss my childhood house. I missed our avocados and our bananas. I missed my dogs and the jungle gym set. Strangely enough I missed weeding and raking leaves, stuffing them into big plastic bags all the while watching out for centipedes and trying to figure out the best, most efficient way to do the job. I missed my mom’s home improvement projects and carrying gravel or laying down black pieces of tarp cut to size. I missed my mom.

The second memory happened as I ate my salad and a cherry tomato popped in my mouth. I saw small, green tomatoes ripening to red while they sat on the windowsill above a metallic sink. I felt wary of the unfamiliar spheres and confused when they were called by name. Why were they so small, tomatoes are big? Why are they named that, they’re not like cherries at all! But, I saw grandpa wash and eat them when they were ready. And he loved them! He thought they were so delicious and I wanted to enjoy them too. At first I disliked their squishy-ness and the unpleasant sudden squirting, but eventually I loved them too! I would go out with grandma and pluck them from the vine growing out of the sand. It’s such a pleasant feeling to pluck a cherry tomato. How did grandma grow them in sand anyways? I collected my prizes in a blue container. I can’t exactly remember where these containers came from. Most likely the carriers of mushrooms or tofu. But we loved those containers. Those containers meant popcorn. And popcorn meant TV and movies! We didn’t have a TV at home, but grandma and grandpa did. Their TV was a large wooden box propped on peg legs and on it we played Mario, duck hunts with the blue and pink guns, Street Fighter, Contra, and the Legend of Zelda. I feel like I played too, but I most likely watched my brothers play. All of our many grey, rectangular games were packed in, I believe, a large shoe box. When the games wouldn’t work, I watched my brothers blow methodically back and forth to expel all the dust. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Three Stooges on New Year’s, and the dropping of the Times Square ball.

Grandpa and Grandma Nitta also had a TV but they lived on Oahu so we didn’t watch it as much. Grandpa had rigged a metal clothes hanger so that despite not having cable, they could still catch the Japanese channel. Sometimes it would cut out and grandpa would go and wave it around or rearrange it until it worked again. I still don’t understand how that actually worked. In the morning, grandpa would recline on his chair with a small towel tucked into his robe and eat toast, eggs, and coffee off a TV dinner tray while watching the Japanese news reports. Grandma would also eat her breakfast, but she would sit very upright and proper in her own chair. There was an ancient exercise bike behind the chairs that didn’t work very well, but I always felt compelled to get on it and to spin it as fast as I could. As I did so, I stared at a large plaque with its many lacquered fish tails. A couple of years ago, my grandparents moved to Maui and I was surprised to find that bike came too, though no one ever uses it. At a certain time each day, grandpa would get out to feed the birds. He would leave seeds on a metal pie pan on a large rock. We would sit very quietly and very still as wild birds flocked to the pan to eat. They knew grandpa and they trusted him. I seem to remember grandpa telling me which ones were the greedy ones and the bullies. I think the birds always arrived in a particular order. That large rock was part of a rock garden. There was white chalky gravel spread beneath it and large flat rounded stones spaced apart that I would hop on. Next to the rock garden was a grassy lawn and many golf balls were always scattered on it. Grandpa would sometimes bring out his pitching wedge and we would practice chipping. Other times he would take me to the range and give me some oddly shaped tokens. I’d place the tokens in the machine, feel it rumble, and fill our buckets. I always marveled at grandpa’s swing. He had a little twist or loop at the top of his back swing. Grandpa liked golf and if we weren’t watching Japanese news, we were watching golf. I would be patient, but sometimes I would die for a kids show and sometimes I got one. There were also golf magazines in the bathroom and I still remember some of the tips I’ve read in those. I was always embarrassed to use that bathroom. The toilet was right next to a window which connected to the patio…and on, and on, and on I go…

I went on much longer than I intended to. I guess the details may seem largely irrelevant, but these are the things that fill and shape the world I once occupied. I’m surprised at how much there is to remember and that we can remember it all. I’m surprised at the pure feelings they bring. And I’m grateful for the richness that memories lend to the very ordinary things that we encounter.

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