Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Coffee, Dieffenbachia Leaves and the Peculiar Ways of Memories

I was nine-years-old and I really wanted to cut my hair. But my mom wouldn’t let me. She said I had to wait until I was fifteen. It was tradition.

One Friday afternoon, I was doing the dishes and contemplating how much I did not want to wash, brush or braid my hair the next day, when I was slapped by pure genius. To bring my imaginative genius into reality, I needed a piece of gum. I had no gum. My older sister did, so I did her part of the chores—mopped the living room floor and swept the porch—for a piece of doobleh boobleh (that’s how I used to pronounced Dubble Bubble in Spanish).

I’m sure you know what my brilliant nine-year-old mind did next. Yes, I chewed the yum out of the gum and then stuck it to my hair, hoping it would have to be chopped off.

My sister found me standing on a chair in front of the mirror. She grinned, and said, “Mami’s going to beat you to death.”

I panicked. “Help me get it off.”

She grabbed a brushed and began to work.

Thirty minutes or so later, my scalp was on fire, the brush was lost in my hair, and my sister’s expression was somewhere between amused and anxious—she was almost a decade my senior… and she had given me the gum.  

“You need to wait until Mami gets home,” my sister said before walking out of the room.

My first thought was, You better climb a tree and never come down. Then I remembered that my mom was visiting with her best friend. If I went there and caught her while she was in a good mood, I would probably get out of the situation with a little smack and a few choice words.

I ran to the house of my mom’s best friend, the hairbrush scraping my scalp with every step. When I got there, my mom and her friend were drinking coffee and divining the numbers on the patterns of a dieffenbachia leaf.

The gum, the hairbrush and tiny bits of my scalp were removed from my head with a minimum amount of physical and verbal unpleasantness.

But nope, no haircut; in fact, the anecdote you just read is not even the reason behind this post. I’m sharing it because I wanted to say that I’m amazed—and sometimes terrified—by the way memory works. You see, about an hour ago, my tummy was feeling funny, so I was chewing a piece of gum while I did the dishes. Then I watered the plants and waited for a pot of French vanilla coffee to brew. I was turning my dieffenbachia plant, so that the leaves would face the sun, when the twenty-seven-year-old memory hit me like if it had happened yesterday.

The whole thing made me think of a quote from Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield: “Rooks are made of thought and memory. They know everything and they do not forget.” What a lovely and peculiar circle, this memory thing… isn’t it?

36 comments:

  1. *Waving "Hi" back to the Dieffenbachia*

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  2. Memories do not come readily to me.

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    1. I like that some of my memories are so vivid. I just wish I could choose which to remember. Some are not something you want to carry around. And they show up during the most inappropriate of times...

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    2. Some are not something you want to carry around. ---Sometimes old memories that would be best forgotten will come crashing into my head so hard that I jerk as tho I have been hit by them. This is very hard to deal with and I have been trying to find a way of controlling this. Any ideas?

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    3. Some memories cause physical and physiological pain. And they seem to just grow with time, as if gaining strength from the suffering. I try to write those down, trying solving the issue on paper (sometimes I burn them) and move on. But it's difficult. Writing helps me. I think art helps many... to forget... to deal with the tough bits... If nothing seems to help, I would say professional medical help would be best.

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  3. I'll have to read 'Bellman & Black'. Their rooks echo Odin's two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. The gum idea was utterly brilliant in concept. Maybe you needed a whole pack of gum? Catching Mami while she was visiting with a friend shows you can think fast on your feet, though. (Or up a tree)

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    1. They do, indeed. The novel shares all kinds of wonderful bits about rooks, ravens, crows... quite interesting. The same goes for the story. A bit sad, but totally worth reading.

      Some needed more cowbell and I needed more gum. ;-D

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  4. At one point when I was in a strange and different place for me, bad memories came flooding in and I had to learn to turn them off. For the most part I don't play with them. Not saying you are by any means but I just get scared of some of mine. :)

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    1. Some memories can be quite devastating. I, for instance, avoid many movies and stories that have to do with war. Some things are just not healthy thinking about. Scary, indeed...

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  5. This reminded me of the time I got gum in my hair and got myself into quite the pickle. A childhood 'friend' had stuck the gum in my curly frizzy bushy hair on purpose thinking that it would be funny. I hated my hair being brushed as a child because it tangled so easy as I am sure that you understand. So me being the quick tempered and revengeful girl that I was ran upstairs to our apartment skillfully avoiding my Mom and stuffed as many pieces of gum in my mouth as I could. I then ran back downstairs found my friend and mushed this huge piece of gum into her hair the best I could before she got away screaming. I quickly realized the huge mistake that I had just made and debated if I could live in an empty storage unit of our apartment for the rest of my life in an attempt to avoid the wrath of my Mother. Needless to say I rightfully got into a huge amount of trouble even with my plea that it was her fault.

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    1. I just saw your cheek about to burst with gum, then you rubbing the sticky stuff in your friend's hair. Oh, the madness. Yes, a storage unit sounded like a great decision at the time, lol!

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    2. I still haven't decided if it wasn't the better plan than going upstairs to face my Mom. Many ice cubes and a brutal hair brushing later I didn't have to get my hair cut either. Unfortunately my friend did end up getting her hair cut the look really worked for her though. =S

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    3. Good for your friend!

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  6. Hmmm...I wonder why the call of the big black birds makes me stop in my tracks and look up?...every time...as if they call only to me? hmmmmmmm......:D XXX

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    1. If you ever come to New York (especially Upstate New York) you're going to get calls from everywhere. Crows all over the place. And pigeons, but those are different shades of gray. ;-)

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  7. Memory is really amazing when it suddenly conjures something up that one hasn't thought of in over a decade. It happens too seldom though, usually we just regurgitate the same memories over and over - and usually they didn't even happen the way we remember them, the "memories" just fit with our perception of ourselves and the world.

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    1. Memories are tricky and our brains are great crafters. It is incredible the kind of things we add to what we believe are untouched memories. Yep, the brain is pretty good at filling the blanks.

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  8. I love this post. I can picture your 9 year old self with that mischievious smile, as you plotted the gum-in-hair plan. Quite an ingenuious decision to let your mami find out when she was in a good mood too ;)

    I love how little things evoke memories we've long since forgotten.

    You know, I adore Bellman and Black - that quote fits perfectly with this post :)

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    1. It did sound brilliant at the time, so I was rather proud of myself, lol! You know what's curious? I remember thinking, before talking to my mom, that the world was going to end. Today, the event it's just funny. Life's lessons come packaged in weird little events, don't they? It is the way we know that nothing is to horrible--even if it feels that way when it happens. We just need to give it a bit of time, and it will go away... or change.

      Bellman & Black rocks!

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  9. Did I just hear that Dieffenbachia snicker?

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    1. Sot that was the sound that kept making me raise my head, lol!

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  10. Its funny how memories come back to us... The slightest, weirdest circumstance can bring them flooding back.. btw use vegetable oil or olive oil to get gum out.. btw your story reminds me of when a lizard got stuck on a sticky mouse trap my husband put down in the garage... the poor lizard was scared.. Told my kid to go bet the bottle of vegetable oil .. poured it on the sticky pad and soon the lizard was off and running!... See what I mean about memories?? lol

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    1. My mom and her friend used coconut oil to free the gum. In fact, in the end the gum wasn't the worse problem, but the hairbrush? Oh my goodness! Hairbrushes and curly hair do not get along. It was... interesting.

      Hm, I wonder if now the lizard thinks about the lady who saved her every time she smells oil. ;-D

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  11. You've brought up a vivid memory for me and it isn't a good one. In my memory, I went to sleep with gum in my mouth even though my Mom had told me that I shouldn't and when I woke up I had Black Jack gum all smooshed in my hair, in several locations. My Mom took to my hair with scissors and I was crying so hard. She tried to even it out which made is worst. After she was finished I had gum still stuck in places and I looked like the wreck of the world. I begged to stay home but went to school to the mocking of my classmates. When I got home from school, she cut even more hair. I felt like Samson, I had lost my strength. Gosh that was ages ago. Oma Linda

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    1. So sorry they chopped your strength when you were a babe. And having to go to school like that... But you have your mane back. And no one can take it away now. ♥

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  12. You must have been a handful! Nicely done!
    Oh memories...if on,y the mind would be so quick to recall the Good Ones!
    I know why I have never spent time on my hair..."thick clear plastic? sharp bristles, scrapping, scrapping then tied off with tight white headband ! Blood stops at the face! as tears run down. Slap! " before I give you something to cry about!"
    So! loved your memory! xoDebi

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    1. I was a least five handfuls. I was a bit of a terror, but a kind one if you gave a chance (or three chances). I was mostly lucky. A lot of people gave me a lot of chances.

      I will always wonder why some parents say the whole bit about "Want me to give you something to cry about?" What would they do if the child answers, "I'm screaming already. I obviously don't."

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  13. Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory! Have a happy day!

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  14. Your poor head! Ouch! Our memories are apart of us in every way! It is funny how things can just pop into our heads! I love you leaf picture ;o)

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    1. Memories have no sense of privacy or decorum. They just show up, don't they? Thank goodness for the happy ones.

      I do love that wee leaf, too. So shiny. :-D

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  15. what a hilarious yet frightening memory..I remember that fear I had when I did something bad!
    thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. I think it's funny the way we see things years after they happened...

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  16. I loved to read about this! It is fascinating the way memory works! I was also really interested by the bit about divining in the leaves!

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    1. One of these days, I'll write a post on all the things people use for divination, in the Caribbean, some are rather crafty... others, creepy.

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