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The Muse of Memories

While I was vacuuming my family room late last night, I thought about what drives me to write. Like flipping through old photo albums, my memory filled with clear images from the age of three. I let my thoughts freefall, wondering which mental pictures would loom largest.

A pattern emerged — the savoured, inconsequential moments appeared more brilliantly in my memory bank than the important, predictable events in my life.

I can retrieve them at will.

It is fascinating how our minds can be accessed for our written work. I had never consciously realised this mental savouring technique until last night; now I understand why my dreams are easy to remember — I have perfected the art of recollection. 

For example, my three-year-old self emerges in my thoughts as vividly as if I were that toddler. I can clearly see myself standing in the driveway of our duplex, four bungalow apartments situated on one lot, in the California San Fernando Valley on a crisp, fall day.

I am wearing a royal blue jacket with wooden barrel buttons and powder blue corduroy pants. My golden brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail, heavy bangs shield my eyes from the sun. In my cupped hands, I am caressing a tiny white mouse with my thumbs, careful not to squeeze too hard.

I carry Mr. Mouse with me everywhere, always pinned into my jacket pocket, his pink nose poking out to sniff the air. Old Mrs. Knight, who lives on a tiny fruit ranch next door, allows Mr. Mouse into her home because she can’t visit with me at her antique dressing table without him in tow. I still remember that mouse as if I had captured his essence with a camera. It is no coincidence that I have been a devotee of animal causes.

Remembering with all senses

It is in these focused snapshots where all of my senses remain sharp.

I remember the click of innocuous moments that weren’t pivotal to the direction of my life, but for some reason the images remain brilliant. 

I was sixteen, alone in the house one evening, feeling exhilarated. While cleaning our tiny home that housed six people, it dawned on me: I have my whole glorious life ahead of me and it will be sensational! 

The movie, Sex and the Single Girl, with Natalie Wood, was playing on the television. I wore hip-hugger, bell bottom jeans with a white halter top, my long hair parted down the middle. I can even smell the grilled cheese sandwich that was sizzling in a black iron pan on the stove. In the throes of my unabashed adolescence, I willed my life to be spectacular in the click of that moment. I have, indeed, accomplished all my dreams.

At twenty-one, I snapped a mental picture of a stained glass window in an ornate front door in the stately neighborhood of Hampstead Heath, England. I came upon that door by way of a chance encounter with a fellow traveler who invited me to share her flat for a few days before my flight back to the States. I was on my way to the airport that day, after six weeks of solo travel through Western Europe.

With an army-green, aluminum-framed pack strapped to my back, I stroked that antique door one last time. It represented my penchant for travel, world cultures, and living life to the fullest, the stained-glass symbolising my fierce independence.

Seeing memories

During my teaching career, I often visited my folks for the weekend. One particular Friday night, just like all the rest of the evenings with my parents, my mother announced her leave to bed before I was ready to retire. I bid my goodnight from the kitchen table where I was grading papers.

When I looked up at the darkened picture window, I caught my mother’s reflection. I took a mental snapshot of her walking toward the hallway in her blue cotton nightgown.

A sudden thought took my breath away: Someday, I won’t be able to watch my mother walk down that hallway. That was forty years ago. My mother, at 89, is still hobbling down that hallway to her bedroom in a similar blue nightgown.

All I see is her youth reflected in that same window.

A treasure trove of moments

When I mark the joyful and sad moments of my life with a sacred appreciation, my senses never dim. I recently told a fellow blogger to play with her memories when she lamented her mother’s loss.

I explained how I replay my memories in chronological order of my life in bed, just before sleep arrives. Invariably, a buried memory comes alive, visiting my dreams. 

When memories and dreams collide, there is no end to the creativity of our imaginings. 

As writers, we can build a treasure trove of these savoured moments to try on, mix and match, and present on the runways of our stories. 

Featured Book: Manuel’s Murals
by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Manuel's Murals is about a passionate nine-year-old boy from Mexico City, who loves to paint murals like his hero, the legendary 20th century Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. He dreams of the day he will become as famous as Rivera so he can take care of his family and never have to watch his father clean other people’s buildings again. This desire takes Manuel on a journey where he gains a new appreciation for his own family through the important history of his brilliant culture. Manuel’s Murals was a finalist in the Children’s Picture Book: Softcover Fiction category of the 2012 USA Best Book Awards.

About Jeaninne Escallier Kato

Jeaninne Escallier Kato, educator and teacher coach, is the author of the notable children's book, Manuel's Murals. Her non-fiction stories are featured in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Teacher Inspirations and Life Lessons From Our Dogs. She is the winner of Wow-Women on Writing's Fall 2017 Flash Fiction Contest for her story ‘A Desert Rose.’ Jeaninne is published in many online literary magazines and is featured in the coffee table anthology ‘Gifts From Our Grandmothers.’ She resides in Northern California with her husband and three beloved rescues, two dogs and a cat. Mexico is her muse.

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