On the Vagaries of Recollection


(DALI, Salvador) Nostalgia of the Cannibal. (Image sourced from Google.)

Lately I’ve been remembering things.

Odd, random things.

At dinner tonight, for instance, over a cup of Arce Dairy Coffee Crumble ice cream, I started remembering afternoons spent in my grandparents’ house in Cebu. My brother and I would walk or bike over, creak open the apple green gate, shamble over mustard yellow linoleum and seat ourselves in carved antique chairs to wait for the tub of ube ice cream (Lolo’s choice) fetched from the sari-sari store just a block away. My brother would inhale two mugs of the stuff while I would sit, legs dangling, patiently stiring with a metal spoon, mesmerized by the constant swirl of dust motes, until I had mess of purple goo.

(I used to eat ice cream that way: melt it until it was almost drinkable.)

I spent the first four years of my life living in my grandparents’ house and several subsequent years visiting it, and only these random images remain. Even then I’m almost sure my memories are wrong, or at the very least inferred, large swathes of detail filled in by the implacable brush of logic and varnished with just the slightest tinge of nostalgia. Was the gate really green? Was the linoleum really yellow? Was the ice-cream store really just a block away? To these questions I can only answer with probabilities, but with regard to the existence of the dust motes, I’m absolutely sure. (They were always clearest in the late afternoon sunlight.)

What do any of these memories mean? What purpose do they even serve? We live our lives as stories, culling bits and pieces from a history filled with unimaginably rich detail (where every moment is equally singular) to form a single coherent narrative of how we came to be who we are and where we are going given that we are who we are. But what of all the moments that never make the final cut? What do we do with all the spools of captured material, irrelevant, superfluous, yet never quite forgotten? Does it matter to my story if I once walked through gates painted with green or on floors covered with yellow? Do we only remember what’s important? Or is everything important and we simply fail to remember why?

I don’t know. Maybe there is no point to certain kinds of remembering. Not all beauty has utility. Perhaps the same holds for recollection.

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