Behind glass


This is another in the Quadrant Book Store series–this is a window on the alley side of the building.  Of course it could be any window anywhere in any old house.

 When I was a kid growing up in upstate N.Y. in the ‘50s—there was an old lady on my block who lived alone and was pretty weird. Us kids (elementary school age) called her “Myrtle the Turtle,” mostly I guess because we thought the phrase was clever and demeaning but, on reflection, it really was appropriate to her circumstances—living alone in her shell—just poking her head out occasionally, briefly—to look around and if anybody got close—snap at them (I guess she was a snapping turtle.).

 Every window in Myrtle’s house looked like this one—dirty, old—junk sitting in them that never changed year to year. The significance and history of these items was a complete enigma. It was sort of like they were an exhibit on permanent display in a museum that never opened to outsiders.

 I can’t remember what became of Myrtle. I do remember one day she just wasn’t living there any more. The drive was empty for a few weeks then one day a new car was there. The yard got mowed, windows cleaned and the junk was gone—as was Myrtle.

 The real utility of this memory for me personally (and for anyone remembering trivial stuff from the distant past) is the personal mythology value—that mélange of life detritus and framework of substance—that makes up our inner world and self-image.

We all remember the big stuff—like dad being in an accident, the family going on a long, exciting trip, graduation from school or college. But we carry also a lot of old, apparently useless junk—bits and pieces of awareness and experience—little memories that seem to have no real point or purpose.

They sit there on display in our dusty little inner museums, decade after decade—the exhibits may or may not be open to outsiders. Intimate, silly mental and emotional shards of having participated in the human condition that ultimately contribute deeply to who we are. 99 percent of life is pedestrian and uninteresting stuff—routine, random, not very significant, moments, events and activities.  Collectively and individually—all that human stuff rattles around in there until “there,” is gone and one day the drive is empty.

So what?

 If you have not already you may want to give some thought to opening the doors and sharing some of that stuff. A lot of that “junk” in your collection—is beautiful or interesting—and fun to share. An example would be me telling you about Myrtle.

But I personally believe the greatest value can be (note I said “can,”) the insight into yourself gained if you pull up and pull out enough of those little remembrances. If you talk about or write about a sufficient number of those little memories you will notice patterns, recurring ideas, images, problems that can be strung together into an outline of who you think you are—(“hey—who do you think you are man?” )

The more you know about who you think you are the better you can (there’s that disclaimer again) avoid or deal with certain issues and cultivate some appreciation for the beautiful, unique person you are. In recent years I’ve noticed a pattern of remembrances in my own life that involve observing and interpreting those observations into a fabric of human condition understanding largely melancholy if not tragic in nature. Look at your own bits and pieces of time spent in the world–what do you see–who are you?

 Of course you must be willing to share stuff and look honestly at your life—in other words stick your head out and really look around—and (unlike Myrtle) keep it out.

 Most importantly though—no snapping allowed.

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