Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Talismans of Memory

On a recent cross-county flight, a member of the flight crew walked the aisles, handing out blue plastic "wings" pins to all the kids. I was happy to see that airlines still do that kind of thing in the post-9/11 world at all. But it was still a far cry from the way I was introduced to the airline industry as a kid. I remember going into the cockpit with all the other kids on the flight when I was eight years old, and having the pilot explain what his controls do, in a manner that commanded respect. (Don't they know that an object holds only the power of the experience that surrounds it in the memory? Surely advertisers know this.) And they gave us metal wings pins, not plastic. I loved those wings and what they recalled to me of the experience. But I have long since lost them. I don't recall where or when-- whether I misplaced them or threw them out on some grey morning when I was in the mood to move on, growing, as we do, past the stream of objects we once depended on to form our identity.

There is always something new within our grasp. Whatever we choose to hold onto is always a primordial tool with which to fashion our experience of the universe.

Onto the same flight, I carried with me a bright yellow package of Juicy Fruit gum, with 17 soft, fresh sticks of silvery, foil-wrapped gum. I chewed precisely one of those sticks before depositing it into the pocket of the seat in front of me for safe-keeping. I promptly forgot the gum, though, and made my way through Disney World and a dozen family members I would never meet again. And I forgot that gum, that wonderful pack of sugary goodness that I was told would keep my ears from clogging from the altitude.

Of all the things I encountered on that trip, that lost pack of gum is the thing I recall the most. Unlike the wings pin, which I kept for some time, and parted with when it was no longer precious to me, I lost my pack of gum while it was still a valued possession. I still think of it flying the friendly skies without me, forever fresh and containing 16 unopened slices in the seat pocket of a Boeing 747. (I still remember the pilot mentioning that).

There is something powerful about the things that we lose while still value them. They become the talismans of our memories, symbols imbued with power, representing and meaning far more than all of the other things that have passed through our hands, which are many.

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