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This Much I Do Remember

July 6, 2011

We went to Toronto for tea—that sounds like the start of a rhyming poem, doesn’t it? Our friends Brian and Eric invited us, and despite Eleanor’s wisdom teeth sufferings, we drove up through Niagara Falls and ended up downtown in the middle of gay pride weekend, where the festive hats we wore got as much notice as any of the other exotic outfits (my friend Phyllis said she could tell when we passed by someone particularly interesting, as my eyes “bugged out like a cartoon character’s”). On any trip that didn’t involve the chance to visit with some of my favorite people in the world, I would have gotten a table at one of the many sidewalk cafes and gawked at the passers-by for at least half a day.

But these are some of my favorite people in the world, so I passed up the pleasures of the unfamiliar in favor of the pleasures of long familiarity.

And then we came home and some other friends, who we haven’t seen in person since Eleanor was two, came to visit us. I am immersed in all the pleasures that long-time friendship can deliver.

And it’s the odd things little things that I’ll remember, I think. The picture of Brian and Eric in front of one of their framed prints that seems to comment on the two of them, although I didn’t even see it in the background when I took the picture. The sight of my friends’ children in the “upside-down tree” at the local college, where Eleanor and Walker always like to take visitors.

Billy Collins writes about those moments in this poem:

This Much I Do Remember

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your

talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me a reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

This morning I woke up with a smile, thinking how “all the moments of the past” were lined up “and all the moments to come” are waiting. I am finding a way to fit twelve chairs around the tables on my deck and making potato salad for a picnic, anticipating the pleasure of the moment when my friends will arrive, like pieces of the past finding their way into the present.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    July 6, 2011 11:37 am

    Ooh, love it! And that particular moment in life.

    • July 7, 2011 8:12 am

      The particular moment when you get to see old friends? It’s easier when you’re in that first round of weddings after college, but after that you have to make occasions to travel across the country to see folks!

  2. Loraine Grubbs permalink
    July 6, 2011 12:35 pm

    As one of your “old” friends — I really enjoyed this post. It made me reflect on the various trips I made with my Hendrix friends — Chicago, Ohio and of course, the various weddings.

    Would LOVE to reconnect with the old gang and to let all of you know that you are welcome to come stay with us in McKinney.

    Loraine

    • July 7, 2011 8:15 am

      Loraine, we’re going to the beach in our super-secret location near Charleston, SC next summer at this time in July…you could bring the family and join us…

  3. July 6, 2011 12:50 pm

    It’s not one of Sondheim’s better songs, but “Old Friends” includes the lines “you and me/ we get continued next week” – I’ve always taken “next week” in a less than literal but very emotional sense.”

    • July 7, 2011 8:21 am

      Yes, exactly–because it would always be next week if you could arrange all the financial details and scheduling logistics!

  4. July 6, 2011 3:10 pm

    I love the poem, the post, and your way of weaving poetry into your life.

    • July 7, 2011 8:22 am

      once you’ve read enough of it, it starts weaving itself into your life…

  5. July 10, 2011 8:45 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful time you’ve been having. And I wish us all these coins to carry around in our pockets.

  6. July 10, 2011 10:23 pm

    My pockets are satisfactorily heavy after this week!

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