Kaleidoscope of Memories

I write this while sitting in Florida at the home of my in-laws. A fan is whirring softly above me, the sounds of warmth are all around in this tropical place.

So many memories here — at this place where I first visited in my early twenties. I was a young nurse, had come back from Pakistan only months before. I knew they would be my in-laws even at that time, before any formal words were spoken, any proposals made. The family was completely different than my own. A military family with many moves and a fierce loyalty to both the military and the south. I knew then that it would be a cross-cultural marriage. That white bread and grits would compete with whole wheat bread and suji, a sweet, cream of wheat sort of hot cereal. That both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line would combine with Pakistan sometimes creating a clash of cultures that would reverberate around the world.

That is the wonder of two families uniting. The result is a third union that carries both families in the foundation and results in something completely different. But traces of each are woven throughout, visually seen in food combinations, felt more dramatically in other areas like personalities, character traits, discipline choices and parenting preferences.

This weekend memories flood across my mind creating a kaleidoscope of pictures and events. Our two little boys seeing but mostly hearing fireworks for the first time, covering their ears with hands that still had the chubby look of toddlers. The ocean where we would head daily to get that perfect combination of sun and sand, sandcastles growing yearly in size and complexity; the large, wooden swing outdoors by the garage where our kids loved to sit at twilight, mosquito repellent a must on those humid Florida evenings; riding waves so that the salty water got into nose and eyes and brought about a happy exhaustion. So many more but the kaleidoscope is so full of colors I purposely stop my mind from going further. I realize that this is the first time i have come to visit my in laws without any of our kids and the thought shocks me.

I think back on these times and I am grateful to both sets of grandparents for opening their homes wide to this nomadic family. For creating place and space when life shifted and airplanes landed, planting a family of five, then six, and finally seven on strange soil.

Our priest talks about how in Orthodoxy we don’t just honor the outcome, we honor the struggle. And along with the good memories I also think about the struggle. Honor the struggle – the struggle that is life, the work that is family. Honor the struggle for it makes the good times better and the hard times worthwhile. Honor the struggle- for sandcastles crumble and childhood ends, wooden swings rot and only the stand remains, still solid in the shifting ground. But the struggle makes the memories even more precious.

I read once that writers are custodians of the memory, and so I pause to write this, wanting to capture both past and present in a way that honors both.

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6 thoughts on “Kaleidoscope of Memories

  1. love the thought of honouring the struggle. I think that God values the struggle, the lessons we learn along the way more than we do. We would so like to discard the struggle and know that the outcome is good but it is the struggle not the outcome that shapes our character.

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  2. Marilyn, you have said so much in a short piece. And it triggers for me memories of your summer visits to Eight Acre Woods – no beach or palm trees, but we had space and those enchanted woods. I remember Annie sitting at the table with her eyes shining, saying, “Grammy, when we come, you always have small boxes of cereal and little crackers for the soup.” And how she would go outside and dance and skip across the whole length and width of the lawn. Joel (in my memory he wasn’t very big) collecting rocks for the border of my flower garden. Your first visit alone with Steffie the summer you won that air ticket. Sending you back to Egypt with a terrible cold and fever when you were very pregnant with Jonathan. I had better stop! I’m sending you my own kaleidoscope of memories. I have lots of pictures from our 12 years there and need to compile them into albums for the grandchildren. We do need to share these memories so they don’t die.
    I love this, and I thank you for writing it. I love you, dear daughter.

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    1. We are at “our” Chesapeake Bay family summer place where my 70-year-old spouse has been coming about 65 years. In 2016 it will be half a century since I first saw it, just before our 6/6/66 college graduation. Our one offspring, spouse and the grandson (6) and grand-daughter (2) were here a day overlapping our start this visit before they went back to work and school. We are now the grandparents, retired. I fancy myself a writer as well. Thanks for the memories — and words about struggle.

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  3. Custodians of the memory . . . yes, that’s it. I always had such strong memories, stronger than the rest of my family, and much of my writing comes from my memory, the way I remember things, the feelings I had when they happened.

    I love this depiction of so many cultures colliding in your marriage, back at the beginning, yes, with Pakistan and the military and the South, but even now, as you incorporate Orthodoxy and Boston and cross-cultural medical work into your lives. What a glorious blend, what a beautiful reflection of God, who made all these cultures, who made all these people in His image, and who makes husband and wife one in Him.

    Happy Monday, Marilyn :)

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