“My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time. These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me. Like the pigeons of St. Mark’s, they were everywhere, under my feet, singly, in pairs, in little honey-voiced congregations, nodding, strutting, winking, rolling the tender feathers of their necks, perching sometimes, if I stood still, on my shoulder or pecking a broken biscuit from between my lips; until, suddenly, the noon gun boomed and in a moment, with a flutter and sweep of wings, the pavement was bare and the whole sky above dark with a tumult of fowl. Thus it was that morning.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
I’m sitting at my desk in sunny Santa Barbara with palm trees and mountains outside my window and a police scanner reporting city life nearby. Out of nowhere, a not-too-distant memory from my internship flashes across my mind: dashing out the humid morning air and into the cool dark bustle of Union Station to grab coffee before work.
Of all the things that might linger in my mind from The Washington Times, why is that one of them? When I think of living in D.C., why is it that last hard mile past the Iwo Jima monument on my evening run that I think of, instead of tours through the Capitol or assignments down by the White House?
I’m fascinated by the things I remember. When I think of living in Rosslyn, Va, I think of tossing keys onto the dresser to join the makeup not put away before we rushed out the door in the morning. I think of Marines drilling as I jog by, wondering if I can really be allowed to run past men in dress uniforms with bayonets all pointed my direction.
When I think back to Hillsdale, the memories are even more endearing and obscure. I think of putting makeup on in front of my mirror while Natalie blasts “Disturbia” – her getting-ready music of choice. I think of Megan putting glitter in her mohawk and Carly making disapproving noises at her. I think of napping at 11p.m. and staying up till 3 doing homework, because I spent so much time laughing at Clara jumping on the bed and yelling “RAGE!” to inspire me to write about Achilles.
I realize now how large a role our memories have in our understanding of the way things should be. When I think of “home,” I think of hanging laundry on the line, canning endless pickles, clearing dishes after a big meal, and decorating for each new season. That’s because I was raised in a happy, productive house where home meant security and creativity and joy. I am so thankful for that.
Now, like Charles in Brideshead, memories bring me back to ordinary mornings that become less ordinary upon remembrance, and I am glad of them.