I was talking recently with a friend who said he was amazed at all the memories I have, memories of driving around with my father, of conversations with my mother, of playing with my friends, of growing up in a small town in the Northeast. The memories are very specific, and usually include both audio and video. I can play back, if asked, what my neighbor answered on a summer afternoon when I was eight and hollered “Hey, wait up!” as I tugged my go-kart up the street that ran east-west in front of our corner house.
My friend said he had, at most, three or four vivid memories from childhood. I told him I was surprised to hear that not everyone is hauntedâ€”quite literallyâ€”by the past.
For instance: A week ago, I was looking in on a neighbor’s cats and saw on a shelf a six-pack of Ensure. It was like a madeleine in a can.
The last time I thought about Ensure was in a parking lot near Heritage Village. My mother was dying of cancer. Cigarettes and the subsequent surgery and radiation had claimed her throat, but she was thirsty and hungry. So I went into a store and bought two cans of Ensure, which we drank in the car before heading for home. It was one of the last times I saw her upright and out of a hospital bed.
Ensure for me now is synonymous with a time when I was mostly a caretaker, and the sight of it conjures up the whole spectacle of impermanence.
Is this really so unusual?