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Ghosts and other memories

Something happens when you have in one place for a long time. It seeps into your bones a little, and it sometimes you become part of it too. There is a comfort in it in a way, a feeling of belonging, of knowing you have a place in the world. It’s being greeted by name at the little dairy on the corner when you buy milk, it’s the café owner knowing your coffee before you order it. It’s the trust you have gained from a life lived within the limits of what is expected. Its walking down the street and remembering the people that lived in houses, long now, moved onto a different life or sometimes not alive anymore at all. We become keepers of stories, a walking museum of everyday histories, all at once vitally important yet trivial at the same time.

Adam Duritz once write in Mrs Potters Lullaby, “If dreams were like movies, then memories are films about ghosts’, and the longer we live and breathe in the same spaces, the more memories linger there, happy or sad, life changing or mundane. Our memories are indeed ghosts, playing out their roles on every street corner, every bar, every room in the house we have remained in for so many years, stuck in a perpetual time loop. Like record stuck in a groove, a cd skipping on the same line. Repeat, repeat , repeat. Re-runs of our own lives. Walking past the playground, we see our children as toddlers, little and sweet, tumbling down the slide, or maybe a little older, licking a near finished ice cream, limbs brown from a Summer years passed, melting vanilla on their chins, sticky and sweet . It’s the embrace of a long gone love in the autumn trees in the park, once our everything and but for so long our nothing, a memory so thick walking through it is like through a fog. It’s the smile of someone who is no longer on this earth, their simple wave from a car window, when we never knew it would be our last or we would have treasured it more then, like we do now. Because nothing lasts, not people, not places, not things. All we have is memories, ever changing and unreliable by design. Comforting and painful simultaneously.

Sometimes we have to brush them away, these memories, sticky like cobwebs, often more suffocating than soothing. And sometimes the memories others have of us put us a in a box we outgrow, or at least want to outgrow, and we yearn for anonymity for ourselves and for another place. Somewhere where the memories belong to other people, where we are not defined by our own true stories, or the ones embellished or altogether fabricated for us by others. Suddenly we want a different coffee, a different name even. We don’t want to be defined by the perceptions of whatever before was, we want to be the outsider experiencing something new and feel the tingle of the uncertainty like goose bumps on our souls. We want to shed our histories the way lizards shed their skins. So we run, or we travel, or we change our lives, our jobs, our homes. And it works. For a while, at least. Until we realise that although our memories are precious, we are not defined by them. Running will not save us. We have to make peace with the ghosts, and that nothing is more real and tangible and important than this moment. Right here. Now.

Photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash

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