The Things We Remember

[Student prison, no longer in service, U of Heidelberg]

At the 30th high school reunion, I told S that I remembered that in elementary school she asked a question when the Kotex lady showed her film. She didn't remember. Via Facebook, I told A how embarrassed I'd been when I brought her a pack of cards for her birthday. She had a slumber party and I hadn't realized it was her birthday party, too. I brought, for reasons not remembered now, cards that someone had given my parents that showed racy hospital jokes--busty nurses with big syringes and so on. A didn't remember. I have just friended E, and I remember that once in the carpool she referred to her stepfather as a dumb bald, as opposed to dumb blonde. She herself had dark hair and bangs and a wide smiling mouth. She was assured. R writes that she remembers me as kind and sweet. I didn't feel kind and sweet in high school or junior high. There is the cliche, of course, that all of us were insecure and had secret crushes on people who--lo, it turns out!--were insecure and had secret crushes on us. There was a boutique around these parts owned by a couple who'd reconnected at a high school reunion. The store is now a very successful Italian restaurant. In Vienna many years ago I went to an underground pub that was very famous and very historic. Many years before that I went to the student jail in Heidelberg, walls covered with centuries of graffiti. We want everything to last. We live in an age of planned obsolescence. We want to be able to buy new, fire our friends, get divorced, move across the country. We want others to stay rooted and traditional so that we can extract comfort from them comfort whenever we want. Or need. We wax nostalgic over TV show theme songs. Because there are so many of us from the Baby Boom, we think that our numbers make all aspects of our childhoods important. We form groups: to remember Peppermint Park (2,477 members on Facebook), Westbury Square (a shopping center disguised as a pretend Victorian village), Kiddie Wonderland, where we rode ponies and drove miniature cars. This, all in Houston, a city intent on obliterating its past.

We wanted to believe that the city's beauty would save it. (refugee from Dubrovnik, in The Suitcase: Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia).