Filed under: catalyst
As always, thank you to all of our visitors and all the encouraging comments you left for us. For those of you who did, thank you for playing along with us. We will do a drawing for the RAK and announce the name mid-week. And if you didn’t join us before, we hope you do this time.
Ok! Here’s catalyst number eleven:
What is your first memory?
We’re very excited to have Loretta Marvel as this week’s Guest Artist.
If you look at Loretta’s art from this week and read her words, you will see that she is exactly what creative Therapy stands for and that she doesn’t need an introduction. I was lucky enough to hear about Loretta thanks to Kris and I cannot be more honored that she agreed to be guest artist for us. You can find out so much more about Loretta at her blog, pomegranatesandpaper. You can also read her regular column “The Artist’s Journey” in every issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors. And, this fall, she will be teaching at Art Is where you can see her and learn from her in person.
Loretta’s art with this catalyst is below and you can click it to see the larger version. I urge you to read the whole story of her art; it brought tears to my eyes.
Recently, there’s been stories in the news about a man and a woman who can remember every single moment of their lives from a very early age. They are not related to one another and I presume their publicity is serendipitous or perhaps they’ve both written books. Each of them is blessed or burdened with the ability to recall every day, minute by minute of their long lives and they can bring up the events, conversations, food, dress, and feelings of any date that they are asked. Neither one has any other savant attributes and there is ostensibly no scientific explanation other than some evidence that certain parts of their brains are larger than the average person’s.
When I first watched Diane Sawyer throw dates at the woman and hear her quick, calm replies of what was on TV the night of say, August 3, 1964, complete with snatches of theme songs to sitcoms long dead and buried, I was awestruck. As the interview progressed, the memory woman was able to pinpoint dates and times of events that even corrected the information printed in the reference book that the newscaster held in her lap. The carny act aspect of the interview, however, was soon overshadowed by the woman’s depression as she explained what a great burden it was to constantly live with a “fresh” memory of every argument, caustic words, hurt feelings, and sadness that she had ever experienced in her life. Imagine, she said, if you had to sit at someone’s deathbed 30 years ago and be able to recall moment to moment every thought and feeling you had during it as if it had happened just a few hours ago.
I have no savant abilities when it comes to memory. In fact, I am often accused by certain family members of only remembering what I wish to and embroidering the memories I do have with the facile quality of hindsight. I cannot really pinpoint my “earliest” memory. I have a general murky swirl of impressions of myself at an early age that may or may not be actual memories or may be just snatches of remembrance etched over with snapshots and family tales. I am generally very happy that my memory is an indistinct as the woman on TV’s memory is clear. As it is, I remember too well moments I’d rather forget. We all carry this Proustian longing to recapture the past with the aroma of a pot of tomato sauce on the stove or the flowering of the lilacs by the front porch. Sometimes the smell of the hot sun through the window glass on the rug in my living room floods me with memories of summers spent in my grandmother’s house, face on the scratchy wall to wall carpeting, reading my uncle’s collection of comic books, musty with age and waiting to hear the bells of the Good Humor Man.
The clearest memory I have of a very young age is waiting for my father to come home from work. I am probably between 2 and 4 years of age and we still live on the second floor of my grandmother’s house. It was a large, old, Victorian with a magnificent oak center staircase that led from their center hall up to the second and third floors. Our apartment was carved out of the second floor bedrooms and opened right onto the second floor landing. The hallway led to the kitchen where my mother would be cooking dinner. I was allowed to wait for my father to come up the stairs, but I was not allowed to go further than the doorjamb that separated our hallway from the center hall.
I’m sure my mother was concerned with two things:
1) I might decide to wander down the big stairs and fall, and
2) if I didn’t fall, I would end up in my grandmother’s kitchen where I would eat dinner and then come upstairs and eat dinner again.
So each evening, I would wait by the door, sticking my body as far around the door frame and I could without letting my shoes go past the little rise of the doorsill. I could extend myself quite a ways around the door-frame, looking directly down the stairs and even see a tiny bit of my grandmother’s bedroom door. If I was good, I was rewarded with my father picking me up and carrying me on his shoulders into the kitchen. If I was bad and he found me on the stairs, I was scolded and spent the rest of the evening in a snit.
My mother was the daily disciplinarian in our family of 5 girls. My father was called in for extreme punishment for infractions of the type that would last in memory well into lives. It was a different time, when Dads weren’t really involved in the day to day life of their families the way my own husband is now. My father worked and came home, mowed the grass, smoked a pipe, and read the newspaper. Occasionally he yelled, drove us on rides on Sunday, told us to get off the phone, and bought us buns and comic books on Sunday. He was hard-working, grouchy at times, a great card player, and had a belly laugh you couldn’t beat. He really didn’t “do” anything with us girls, but few fathers did back then. Other than driving me to school some morning, I cannot recall one single activity that my father and I did together without the rest of the family.
I wanted so much to see a smile on my father’s face each night when he came home from work and have him carry me down the hall to my mother’s waiting arms. More times than not, I’m sure I did. I learned a lot about rules and expectations from waiting by that door. It may even explain the dichotomy in me that has lasted my whole life of trying to go as far as I can beyond the rules without actually breaking them, and of trying to please my parents while getting away with murder. With most of that emotional sturm and drang behind me now, I’ve come to realize that what that memory also represents is the essence of the reliability of my upbringing: that there would be rules and order that both parents would enforce, that there would be a dad who came home every night and a mom who was waiting; that parents were there to comfort and to discipline; and that as long as I could stay with one foot in their world, I could both keep their approval and sneak a peek around the next door.
After my Dad died, we found in the top drawer of his dresser his most private papers: a stack of index cards on which he’d kept track of all his sales commissions month by month for all the years of his career, birthday cards we’d given him over the years, and all of our report cards. Tucked in with the cards, was a folded sheet of typewriter paper. It was a little note I had typed to him on the typewriter that they had given me as a gift for graduating college. It said, “Dear Dad, thank you for my typewriter. I love you very much” . Such is the stuff of memories made.
Thank you so much Loretta; we’re truly honored.
Here are some interpretations of the catalyst from members of our team. Click on the photos to see the bigger versions.
Everytime I look at this picture it warmed my heart to see how close my cousins and I were when we were young. We are still as close as ever now that we’re all grown up. I still remember clearly that when this picture were taken I was only about 4, my cousin Anna was 5 and cousin Angelyn was only 3. We are only a year apart from each other and we are as close as any sisters would be. We were always seen together, day and night as we live close to each other. We would sleep, eat, bathe, play and being punished together as well! LOL! I always laugh out loud when I think about how we would pretend we were princesses and we dressed up looking ridiculously funny which would make everyone laugh! How I love those time when we would beg our parents to treat us to ice balls covered with syrup and we would slurp them until the last drop of ice are left, it was a rare treat we always cherished. We quarrelled, we made up, we cry and we laugh all the time and I think these made us love each other ever more. I’ll always cherish this memory of my childhood with my 2 most loved cousins in my life, forever.
When I seen this catalyst I was drawn to these pictures of my sweet pup Oscar. It seems like just yesterday he was a puppy and now he is 3 1/2 years old. We have had many pets but it wasn’t until we got Oscar that I truly learned to love a pet. He is just the sweetest dog. He’s so loveable. I don’t know what we’d do without him. My mother just recently had to put one of her pups to sleep and it just made me appreciate Oscar even more.
when i was thinking about this catalyst, our first memories, i kept thinking of being young & playing in the backyard. spending time with my grandparents on the weekends. my mom and i singing at the top of our lungs horse with no name as we travleed in the car with the windows rolled down when i was 7. living on a ranch and spending endless days outside.
but there was this shadow in the back of my mind as i was remebering all of these blissful times. i kept thinking os all of the missing memories with my father, whom i don’t speak with anymore. all of the memories that he never got to experience with me, even during the times when he was present in my youth, it was as a shadow, present in body but not interacting, not “experiencing” these memories with me, because he was always emotionally absent.
there are so many good memories to dwell on and yet the only ones i focus on are all of the times you were never there.
You gave me the love of words.
My first memory ever is of you sitting on our parents’ bed and reading the newspaper. I was so envious, I asked you to teach me to read, too. And you did. One letter at a time.
Yona, you may not know this, but you gave me the biggest present anyone ever gave me. You gave me the love of words. Over the years, through sad, boring, and even happy times, I always had books. It didn’t matter where I was, with whom I was, or what I did. As long as I had a book or two, life was swell.
Those few hours we spent together opened up an entire world for me. It became my best escape. My way of falling into other people’s lives. My way of living, loving, learning. My favorite thing in the whole world.
I went through a tough childhood and didn’t have a lot of good friends. But I always had books. I lived vicariously through so many of them. I still remember how you drove me to bookstores far away just so I could pick my favorite books. I remember how much you supported my love of the written word. From that first memory and onward.
Over the years, many things about me changed. But not my love of reading. I still read two books a week, most weeks. I still crave the words, the stories, the lives that I get to experience. I still carry a book with me everywhere I go. It’s still my very favorite way to relax, escape, and to feel happy.
I want you to know, Yona, that I owe it all to you. To that moment when you didn’t tell me to leave you alone. That moment when you let me lie there, next to you, on Mom and Dad’s bed, and showed me how to read each letter.
You gave me the love of words, my sister. The best present I’ve ever received in my whole life.
The earliest memory I have is when I was about 18 months old. I had a doll that had a tongue. If you squeezed the belly, a little red balloon would poke out of the mouth. I thought it was the funniest thing, and I would squeeze the belly, and then poke my tongue out at it… We fed a whole box of Milk Bone dog biscuts to the puppy and ate the green ones for ourselves. I put the doll in the warming oven on top of the barbeque for a nap. It was a weird grill that had this door on top where you could store the meat as you cooked it. I had to go take a nap, and when I woke up, my dad was barbequing. I ran up to him screaming hysterically that I wanted my baby. Just a baby myself, he thought I was hurt. I kept screaming “baby my baby” and when he listened to what I was saying, and saw me reaching for the barbeque… he opened the door, and there was my poor doll, charred black from the smoke. I didn’t care, I hugged her and cooed to her, and felt bad that she had been barbequed. They tried to throw her away many times, but I would throw a fit. I don’t know what happened to the doll. I am sure my mom probably threw it away when I became interested in a different doll. I just remember that I loved her, and I didn’t care if she was a little burnt. I drug her around everywhere with me.
I think the first memories I have are from when I was about 2 or 3. I remember holding my mom’s hand and walking up a hill lined with flowers. Mom tells me its the street our apartment was on in San Clemente, California. I remember lots of sun. we were probably heading to the beach. At the time I was an only child, my dad was stationed at the Marine Corps. base and we frequented the beach. I don’t have many pics of my dad from that time because he was always behind the camera. He took the gorgeous photos used in this piece. I’m almost positive that those early memories fostered in me my overwhelming love of the beach. Oh, I don’t like the heat, and I don’t like to swim in the ocean. But I could sit on the beach all day and dunk my toes in the sandy water. And there is nothing like a sunset on a beach. Once you’ve seen one, I can’t imagine how you would want to be anywhere else. I’m not really sure why I live in the middle of the country except to be near family. The beach is always calling to me. Someday I will answer the call and go live by the ocean.
Now it’s your turn: show us your therapeutic art around “your first memory.” I urge you to give it a try. Embrace the healing power of art. It can be any form of art as long as it speaks to you. Leave us comments with your work and we will send a RAK to a random participant. You’ll have to link your work by Sunday night, June 1st, midnight PST to qualify for the RAK.
For our RAK for catalyst #11, we are thrilled to be giving away papers, transparencies and rubons from our sponsor: Hambly Studios.
Remember, this is not a competition. If your art makes you feel even a bit better at the end, you’ve won.
Until next week, enjoy each and every moment.
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