The human memory, fragilely reliable as it is, is oft-times affected by one or more of the following: perception, retention, repetition and age.
When younger, I had no need for memory.
Mother knew where everything was, or at least where it should have been.
Mother also knew what she held in her memory, most of which went unshared to her adolescent children.
Mom was too busy chasing new memories to share old ones.
Last week I flew to Atlanta, Georgia to chase down some old memories — some belonging to my only sister, Linda, and many belonging to our mom’s high school and college best friend, Nell Permenter, no relation to the cheese.
If you don’t tell Nell where you heard it, southern belle Nell, the Class of 1938’s choice for “Most Beautiful” at Millsaps College, celebrated her latest birthday a few days before we visited with her in her older sister’s family home down in Jackson, Miss.
We had not seen Nell since before airplane travel became a violation of human dignity.
Nell was more in slow motion than a decade ago, but ageless in her beauty and refinement.
What is it about southern women?
Southerners never seem to age like the wrinkled suburban sun worshipers of my Midwestern youth.
Could it be the collard greens?
Maybe the occasional “Coke Cola” with a subtle splash of bourbon?
I know that after two days and nights of vegetable plates, super-sizing and emphasizing collards, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, lady peas, and rice and gravy, my memory sure improved.
All of a sudden, I was on my grandma Tama’s porch, sitting in her swing, helping her snap green beans, oblivious to the June humidity of Hattiesburg, Miss., where she and her husband lived and loved.
Thanks to a 1934 Central High School scrapbook that was rediscovered during a recent move by our older brother, Lew, page upon page of Mom’s handwritten notations, descriptions, opinions and evaluations were available for translation and interpretation.
Who better than Nell to tell?
So here we were, seated at the post-Civil War mahogany table, in the formal dining room, after successfully completing our Ocean Spray 100 percent Juice Cranberry Juice, Folger’s Coffee and Buddy Bars, to look at Mom’s scrapbook together, for the very first time.
No amount of words that I know will ever illuminate the feeling of those precious moments.
No shared memories of the collective laughter, the eye-strain or the measurement of our systolic and diastolic pressure will ever achieve the descriptions worthy of depiction.
No taped recordings or Fuji film moments would be able to capture what the three of us were knowing.
Can you say G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S?
Nell was so sweet to reveal the essence of her recollections, many of them formed and based upon events of more than seven decades’ passing.
Seventy-six years later, sharing memories in the dining room, were Mom’s best friend and a couple of Mom’s senior citizen kids, sitting at the table laughing, being ever so thankful that Mom was still there too.
May you and yours have a joyous and glorious Thanksgiving celebration, sharing your memories, old and new, filled with goodness and gratitude for all.