The Weight of Memory

Elaine Paige as the original Grizabella

Elaine Paige as the original Grizabella

Musings on Memory
By Norma Schuh

Sensory reminders of what once was or might have been are powerful emotional triggers. The scent of Ponds cleansing cream instantly summons images of my precious departed mom engaged in her bedtime ritual. The sound of a distant train whistle precipitates a yearning for long-ago, far-off adventures. 

Music, in particular, can stir me to the depths of my soul…the overture from Phantom of the Opera incites me, the theme from Rocky motivates me, MEMORY, the climatical piece from the Broadway musical Cats, as well as MEMORIES from the film, The Way We Were, tug at my heart…WHY are these pieces so personally impactful?

For me they are nostalgic, mental post-its that recall life stages, defining moments, former loves/passions/intentions, passing time, and future potential. Grizabella of Cats, a one-time glamour puss who is now only a shell of her former self, stands alone on a darkened empty street and sings… 

Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then.

I, too, recall a glorious past, complete with delicious ingenue roles in theater, a respected senior management position in corporate America, and a wealth of fulfilling opportunities inviting me to lend my writing talents, leadership skills, and over-all creativity. It was a time when my physical beauty was a strong suit/integral part of my identity and suitors were a-plenty.

In The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand/Katie Morosky, reflects nostalgically on her turbulent romantic relationship over the course of many years with Robert Redford/Hubbell Gardiner, her polar opposite. Their divergent lifestyles and politics ultimately unravel the connection, despite their love and attraction for one another, leaving only MEMORIES which…

Light the corners of my mind, 
misty watercolor memories 
of the way we were.

Looking back on life from the pinnacle of the Third Act lends perspective that can transform an event/person/circumstance, formerly viewed as negative, to a significant positive change agent.  Choosing to consciously subjugate a particularly low point to the nether lands of one’s psyche— never to be resurrected again—is another healthy, potential outcome. Reminscing is also often beneficial in affirming the merit/wisdom of paths pursued…

If we had the chance to do it all again, 
tell me, would we? Could we?

Memories may be beautiful and yet, 
what's too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget .

So it's the laughter we will remember
whenever we remember the way we were.

Whether a comforting balm or source of regret, thoughtfully reflecting on the past not only provides insights, but also offers a proven personal template for the future.  If it is ultimately laughter that we most remember, how will we assure more of the same in the life that remains?  Pining for times gone by is unproductive, but examining the past, sifting out the gold of memories in order to create an engaging, joyous present and future has value, to be sure. 

I must think of a new life 
and I mustn't give in.
When the dawn comes,
tonight will be a memory, too
And a new day will begin.




A recovering  Life-Stuffer, Norma enjoys the winter months in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and is currently savoring a “Year off for Good Behavior.” In her more recent frenetic past, she wrote, produced and performed in two of her original plays, founded/led a contemplative spirituality group, a prison ministry and a women’s singing ensemble— the QuesaDivas. She is a published writer/columnist/critic, and the creator of Embracing Mortality, Living Vitally, Leaving a Legacy,which is the focus of her presentations/retreats and book-in-progress.