By Paryn Neer
I am a moment memorizer. Perhaps everyone is in their own way, but the way my brain records and memorizes details of my life allows me to flip back through moments the way you could through a photo album. My memorialized moments are 3-D, retain their smells, their sounds, and their emotions. And I keep a lot of albums. They are mostly divided up in blocks of time, with good and bad right next to each other so that I can balance on both my joy and my sorrow foot while I flip through my memory albums. I’ll give you a couple of quick examples:
Seventeen years ago I was typing up a paper in a computer lab. I looked at the clock at the bottom of the screen and saw it was time to go meet the guy I was seeing down in the square (pre-cell phone era!) It was nighttime, and we were both working on papers in different buildings. I walked out the door of my building at the same moment he walked out the door of his building. We were only 20 yards apart, but there was a Take Back the Night rally and there were people everywhere. Paper lanterns lined and lit up the square. It had rained earlier, and I could smell wet bricks, an ocean breeze, and candle wax. We weaved through the crowd and in the last few steps I ran and jumped into his arms. He caught me and held me up for a second and turned, so I saw candlelight swirl, heard people laughing, and felt that joy-thrill of first love all at once. Sigh. Happy.
Time: Olympic Peninsula Living
Five years ago I sat in my bathtub in the rental house I loved so much, on a hill with a view of mountains and sea, soaking in my own blood. It was my third, and worst, miscarriage. My husband was at work and my mom was visiting. I’d been in the bathroom for 2 hours. The smell of so much blood kept triggering an alarm in my brain, and I thought about the weirdness of being surrounded by so much of my blood, being able to see and touch it, while also knowing that my life was not in danger. I distracted myself from my misery by attempting to remember song lyrics from songs I had not heard in a long time. I got stuck on Tori Amos:
“So, you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts.
What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon…”
I sang quietly, with my hair in my face and my head resting on the edge of the tub, lips whispering above the bloody water.
I’m calling my current life album “It’s Just Nuts.” I have 2 children under 3 years old. I cannot, for the life of me, catch up on anything. But I had a moment the other day. I walked into the dark bedroom and stared at my sleeping husband, toddler, and baby. The soft sound of breath in and out, sweet sleeping baby cheeks, my husband asleep in t-shirt and jeans with a Dr. Seuss book on his chest. By the light of the globe night-light, I marveled at my current life and the surrealistic family I thought I would not have. I thought about my previous life albums, and how I have never seen a new life coming until it hit me. But this one, this wild and precious ride I’m currently on, I did choose. I sat in my quiet, beloved rental house on the mountain-to-sea hill, post-miscarriage and post-divorce, and I decided to try. Try for a new partner, try for kids, try for that life that is supposedly what most of us want. And I got it. And it’s just nuts.
What does it mean to have it all? When do you stop wanting? I love my life, and I have loved all of my previous life albums too. I have been happy and sad in all of them. There is stress alongside laughter, tears, and love; adventures and disappointments in all of my memory albums.
But this one album, this one here, look at the title. It’s Just Nuts—ooh! Maybe it’s a food album! Take it off the shelf, look inside. This one has something none of the others have. There are two new little human creatures in this one. These photos are different—a wider lens maybe? A broader perspective? Maybe it’s just the light, but the moments in this album look more vibrant. They appear sticky and sweet, heavy and light, brilliant, nostalgic, and lovely all at once. This album is clearly where the magic is.
Paryn lives in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by her husband, children, and a menagerie of animals. When she is not working one of her two full-time jobs, she hides in the bathroom to write.