I Will Remember You. Will You Remember Me?
A scrim. It’s a theatrical device. Essentially a translucent piece of fabric, it’s usually employed to evoke specific feelings in the audience. Fog perhaps. A scene illumined by odd light and shadow. The dead of night.
My memory works like a scrim. Things happened to me behind it. People move. They change. Scenery advances and contracts. The play is there, but the outlines are muted, fuzzy.
That’s the way I’ve always felt about the town of my birth. Few people would guess, but I am a Tennessean, hailing from a town outside of Nashville called Springfield. Right after I was born, my parents moved us to another town, giving me a few random experiences in the place of my spawning before we left it all behind the scrim when I was four years old. To me, it’s always been this mythic, misty place, separated from me by hundreds of miles and decades that wove a heavy veil over my memory.
My seminal memory from the place of my birth happened before I was two. I sit in a car with my Mom across the street from a boxy building on a hill with a filmy green lawn. Her voice is there, but I can’t see her when she tells me that building was the place I breathed for the first time, the intersection where I became me, started living in front of the scrim of whatever comes before we existed. Not seeing that structure for over forty years didn’t mean I forgot it. The edges were blurred, maybe, and the colors were off, but I still conjured what I saw with my baby eyes on the stage of my mind.
Yesterday, I viewed it again. The same sloping hill. The windows. The odd mish-mash of rectangles and squares. The site that gave me life, tarnished and uncovered, preening in front of the scrim of my recollection.
I sat in the car in the parking lot, afraid to get out and walk. Instead, I talked to some of you right here, used your words to give me the courage to see the place again. A concrete stair. The smell of asphalt. Sunlight glaring from glass. People buzzing around me as I stood underneath a portico and cried alone.
It was the same. And, it wasn’t. A trick of the scrim that highlights some bits while shielding others. I don’t know what I expected. The earth didn’t move; yet, it did. The air wasn’t different; yet, it was. Traffic still whizzed along the roadway; yet, it stood still. Seconds ticked by; yet, time stopped. I didn’t want to feel anything; yet, I felt everything. Sadness and euphoria. Pain and ecstasy. Laughter and tears. Anger and joy. Frustration and purpose.
I imagine if I could see my birth through the scrim of my consciousness, that’s what I’d feel. All of it. At once.