a warehouse in which several floors have been segregated, under guard
and lock and key—entrance forbidden—so are so many of our memories.
With each passing day, month, year, and the experiences so accumulated,
we sacrifice some of our past to retain that of our most recent past.
The prism of our memory shows crisper that which is forty years gone
than in retelling the events of the last week. Unquestionably,
we are been bewildered by the incongruity. However in this small,
yet astounding miracle, we all, in a semi-distorted way, remain forever
notion cuts to the truth of how it has been, and continues to be, in
writing about the glory years of the Catskills. A reviewer of
an anthology of Catskill memoirs speculated that the authors are still,
now, visiting these venues, each night, as we sleep. Then, upon
awakening, we rush to a typewriter or computer, hastily recording the
visions while they are vivid, a moment before realizing we are in the
present, and the bungalows, hotels, towns, camps, friends and playgrounds
of the past have long past been consigned to dustbins.
memories come in so many genres. They appear as snapshots—small
and distinct pictures of what went before. They come in short
features—a longer sequence, a series of events, a special moment frozen
forever, drawn up yet again in slumber, fixed against the pull of decades
and as clear and present as the morning’s news.
recollections roll forward--a highlight film flickering against the
canvas of closed eyes. Sunburns and softball, blueberry picking
and milk and cookies, swimming and three mile hikes, comic books and
movie nights, travelling vendors and the colony concession, winding
country roads and old gas stations with elderly attendants in starched
uniforms and bow ties, best friends and worst enemies, bonfires and
bingo, the woods and the lake and the haunted house, counselors, arts
and crafts projects, the look and smell of the bungalow on Decoration
Day, daisies and the handball court, the double swing and the teeter-totter,
Mello-Rolls and Orange Crush, stickball and stall showers, summer quilts
and baseball cards, thunderstorms and salamanders, first dance, first
date, first cigarette, first beer, first kiss, first sex, first everything.
do these reminiscences still survive when so much else has fallen from
memory? How is it my mind’s eye can conjure the definite dimple
and mesmerizing magic of Marcia Clayman’s smile, when she was but seven,
as was I, some forty years ago? How is it I may yet discern the
blessing of a cherry-vanilla mella-roll—cold and sweet to the tongue--
fresh from the colony store but slightly melting beneath a July sun?
What prescient power preserves the downy feel of the orange under belly
of a single salamander captured after a bracing summer rain? How
can I so clearly trace the trajectory of a “pensie pinky” on
its flight from my stickball bat to the distant roof of the camp-house?
The lens of my inner being, where all hopes and dreams and memories
live, was it then sharper, more efficient, and so much more powerful?
Did I some how know, by some intrinsic intuition, that those moments
were most precious and singularly salient? Was I cognizant of
their need to be indelibly inscribed on my subconscious, so that many
years forward, in times of stress and anxiety, they would stand ready
to be summoned, a citadel of strength called from reserve to beat back
even the strongest waves of anguish and loss?
we live in a world of towering contradiction. Science and technology
have brought us to the threshold of miracles and wonders that could
not even been conceived of just decades before. Images and events
streak across the atmosphere at the speed of light, into our homes,
and our office and our automobiles. Our children may expect to
live a hundred years, and their children a hundred and twenty, and more.
Yet torrents of hatred pervade and endure, ancient superstitions and
horrible xenophobia poison what otherwise might be the dawn of an epoch
of abundance and enlightenment.
the whole of our experience is not simply what now occurs around us,
or to us. No. Our experience is comprised of that which
is actually occurring, coupled with our perception of that which is
occurring. Now, surly our perception of this reality is touched
and tempered by many variables, not the least of which is from where
we have come—the entire compilation of experiences past. It is
recognition of this unassailable truth that lends me the greatest appreciation
and gratitude for those long ago but hardly lost summers of my youth.
For, in large part, it is the love and wonder and tenderness and magic
and awe discovered through those endless days that, in times of severe
duress, miraculously resurfaces, and by the grace of God proves to be
the measure of difference between acceptance and insanity.