Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Personal Pensieve

Harry Potter makes me jealous. Yes, I'm jealous of a kid that regularly gets the tar beaten out of him by the forces of evil and still has to survive his godawful teen years. I'm jealous of a character created out of the imagination of a writer. Maybe it's J.K. Rowling who is the true target of my jealousy and not really for her fabulous success. (As far as that goes, she's done the writing world great service by growing a new generation of readers.) No, what I really covet is her Pensieve.

In the book (and subsequently, the movies), the Pensieve shows memories. I want that. I want the perfect retention of memories with all their subtle circumstances intact forever.

When I look at a photograph or image, I can recall the occasion but not what I was thinking or feeling at the time. The same goes for video. Only memory can retain part of the world. Over time that world fades, the details go away, maybe only an image remains, maybe not even that. I can't see the face of my first love anymore though I remember the yellow roses he gave me.

I remember a woman I met who was in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. The look of panic on her face left an indelible impression on me. No minute was connected to another. No face was recognizable, not even her own. She had run screaming from the house one day when she saw her own reflection in the bathroom mirror. And although Alzheimer's is the most extreme case of memory loss, every day I sense some small but precious detail leaves my brain. When I go back for it, it's not there. Time faded the detail, it left unseen.

Last night we took the kids to the aquarium to have dinner with the sharks. There's a memory I would like to keep with all of its gorgeous detail. The kids all lined up against the tank, looking up at the sharks gliding by, mesmerized by each other. Light music, darkened room, graceful fish, thrilled children, new worlds overlapping.

I can't stand the thought of last night with the sharks swimming away with time. Me and the sharks need a Pensieve.