On inauguration day our mid-morning at the residency was partially cleared so we could watch the event. Imagine around fifty children’s authors in a room, sitting on 70’s furniture and surrounded by shelves of geopolitical business books, watching a TV screen slightly larger than a laptop. Got that image? Good, now erase it.
I was talking with people about how we tend to remember where we were the day something horrible happened and use it as a memory peg, but so often those memories outnumber the good ones. It isn’t like you can plan on a tragedy like an assassination or a terrorist attack, and part of why we remember where we were in those moments is that our brains go looking for some sort of grounding. It’s a part of the story we tell ourselves, the narrative we need to find in order to maintain perspective.
But the good days, the good moments, the things we can see coming, everything blends together leading up to that moment and trails off afterward. The memories of those good times don’t anchor themselves so much as they come screaming from the distance, gain volume, and then fade away the way a supersonic jet might pass through our consciousness. It’s like the memory’s version of the Doppler effect, where it wells up and floods past without really stopping to affix itself to a particular event in time.
It was later in the evening, after dark, after dinner, when the moment came for me. It is what will cement itself as the primary image of the day Obama was sworn into office, the thing I remember perhaps most of all: large, cold, upper-elevation-formed snow flakes.
distinct and large
the gentle glitter
coated marshmallow banks
in a sugary crystalline shimmer
with a sea glass wind chime tinkle
against a moonless midnight ocean
on a cold night
full of warm celebration
in twinkly tears of joy
for far too long
in the heavens
You have to understand, it wasn’t just snow, it was snowflakes about a quarter inch across, their architecture perfectly visible from a distance, so cold that they didn’t immediately melt when you caught them in your hand. It was a fairy tale snow for the end of a day that deserved a moment all its own. When generations yet born ask me what I remember about January 20th, 2009 I might talk about heckling a man in a wheelchair by singing Darth Vadar’s theme, or olive green gloves, flubbed lines and big bow-tie hats, but it will be the image of that snow that outlasts them all.
Poetry Friday? Yeah, I’ve heard of it. Hanging out over at Adventures in Daily Living this week.