Sunday, June 19, 2016

Making memories

AMERICANS take to the road. According to a June 7 article in the International New York Times, lower gasoline prices and a shift inpost-recession values are spurring Americans to get behind the wheel.

The “great American road trip,” writes Clifford Krauss, comes on the tail of the 2008 financial crisis. Americans are savouring their money to “buy happiness” in the form of “adventures and memories”. Unlike “tangible goods that expire and wear out,” a marketing executive described memories as the ultimate acquisitions: “you can’t take away my memory”.

Contrasting with this view of a memory that can be fixed and insured from loss or theft is a line I encountered in Haruki Murakami’s short story, “Yesterday,” published in The New Yorker’s June 9 & 16, 2014

Murakami’s story about lost youth and lost love revolves around a confusing youth named Kitaru, his obsession (or not) for the too-nice-to-be-real Kuritani, and the confused narrator who was Kitaru’s close friend (or not) Tanimura.

However, “Yesterday” isn’t about the eternal love triangle. Murakami starts and ends the story with a meditation over Tanimura’s recall, broken by a16-year gap, of the Kansai translation Kitaru makes of the
Beatles’ classic, “Yesterday”.

When they were 20 and working in a coffee shop, Kitaru translated Paul McCartney’s lyrics into the Kansai dialect. Tanimura listened to Kitaru sing this version as he soaked for an hour or so in the bath: “Yesterday/ Is two days before tomorrow,/ The day after two days ago.”

Trying to make sense of this translation is impossible. I grew up with my yaya’s portable radio always blaring love songs while she ironed clothes and I was supposed to stay put and avoid mischief (and trouble with my parents for her).

So my memory of “Yesterday” is stuck on the groove of these lines, “Yesterday/ All my troubles seemed so far away/ Now it looks as if they’re here to stay/ Yesterday came suddenly.”

Kitaru’s Kansai translation is impenetrable, given my memory of “Yesterday”. Even if I comprehended Kansai (Murakami’s story was translated for The New Yorker by Philip Gabriel), I would not still be able to choose which was the better remembrance of Paul’s poetry: Kitaru’s or mine.

But I take solace in Murakami’s line: “As time passes, memory, inevitably, reconstitutes itself.”

Reading about America’s post-recession wisdom was disappointing. I understand how it is to lose one’s job and lose one’s home. I, too, would cling to something. But memories?

There is no recipe for making memories. I recently emailed my sister photos of my late father’s Beetle. She emailed me that seeing again the old dashboard made her cry. She remembers holding tightly on to the handle placed in front of the passenger seated next to the driver when my father was in one of his moods.

When I was sorting his things, 11 years after he passed away, I cried only once. My father watched over me while I delivered my first born. He scrubbed for exactly an hour. When I didn’t cry during the worst labor pain, he directed my doctor to open me. My daughter never cries, he said. Ergo, she must be in pain.

I found a paper bag where he saved everything he used in that dawn delivery, including the gloves. When I opened the paper-wrapped maroon scrub gown, I cried. I don’t recall him wearing red at all. Memories cannot be counted on.

( 0917 3226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu's June 12, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, "Matamata"

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