Flipping through old photo albums

As I watched the best picture nominees from the Oscars this year, the films all felt strangely familiar. And I realized that truly powerful movies – like Amour and Life of Pi – have the unique ability to become a part of my own personal visual narrative. Watching a movie is remarkably similar to looking through my own memories. Most of our lives are like a series of images. They pass us by like towns on a highway. But sometimes, for some reason, a moment stuns us as it happens and we know that this moment is more than a fleeting image. We know that this moment, and every part of it, will always be imprinted in our minds – like the most moving scene in a film that you’ll always remember. My earliest memories can only be described in this way – as a collection of snapshots. Like a messy, nonlinear scrapbook with colourful pictures and missing dates. And instead of stamps or stickers or receipts to adorn the pages, there are scents and sounds and certain kinds of weather – like gently falling snowflakes, or the first spring breeze – that can suddenly overwhelm me with a memory that I never knew I had.

I can remember moments, but I cannot remember days.

I remember that there was a bright red balloon. I do not remember how I got it, or why, but I remember thinking it was absolutely perfect. I wrapped it around my wrist, asked my dad to double knot it twice, and I gripped it tightly for several hours. It is a still a mystery to me how it became undone. But somehow, one second it was attached to my arm like a fifth limb, and the next it was drifting away at an unstoppable pace. It looked like an airborne cherry – floating off into the distance with an inexplicable kind of purpose.

I remember the smell of a summer beside the lake, the smell of a moonlit beach, the smell of a family dinner of chicken souvlaki and sweet potatoes.

I remember my grandmother’s hands. I remember that she wore two rings on her right hand, and one on her left. The one ring on her left was a gold band with a round, auburn coloured stone. One ring on her right hand was turquoise, and the other was a silver flower with a black centre. I am told that the most striking thing about her was her hazel eyes, but for some reason I remember her hands. The only pictures I have of her are those that are black and white, so it seems that I may never be able to appreciate her eyes. But my memories do add some shades of colour to those pictures, and the ones in my mind are as vivid as ever.

I remember the soundtrack of quiet Sunday mornings. My brother – reading Calvin and Hobbes while munching on cheerios. My mom – coming home from her early morning run and turning the key in the front door.  And my dad – whistling to himself as he marked his enormous pile of papers.

I remember falling in love with Conner Rumen because of his fluffy golden retriever, daydreaming whole novellas in the half a second it took me to fall.

I remember where I used to hide my first journal – in the left corner of my bed, underneath my mattress. And I remember the wonderful relief of running to my room, lifting the mattress, and knowing that my friendly little notebook was still there. Would it be cliché to say in a writing paper that I always loved to write? Probably. But I liked connecting words with people, and I felt like a momentary genius when I would find the perfect words to explain something. And I always thought that to live in an undescribed world was too lonely.

Memories are a strange thing. They are close enough to touch, but not quite close enough to hold. There are memories that are buried deep, but they all have triggers, and suddenly – a complex vision can leap out from under the dusty mass of years. There are memories that are with us all the time, like a tiny newspaper cutout slipped into our wallets – where you can always feel its warmth in your pocket. My mind feels like a camera sometimes. I can never hear the click of a photograph being taken but I’ll eventually remember the picture in perfect detail, though it may be a little blurred around the edges.

Bahar Orang, Assistant ANDY Editor

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Author: Bahar Orang

Bahar is the Sil's senior ANDY editor.