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Kansas City MO 64131





Cindy Maddera

I remember there was a time when Chris wanted to do a This American Life Story. I was always on board for this idea. The problem was that neither one of us could ever come up with a story that seemed to fit. We were always brainstorming things to research to build a story. Maybe that's why the Moth Radio Hour has become my new thing. It's just people telling stories. Sort of like TAL but less investigative and more personal. It's more Listen To Your Mother without the mother. That's not really true either. I'm sure there's some stories that include a mother or mention of being a mother. More inclusive may be a better way to describe it. I was listening to the show and thinking that I should do that some day. I should tell a story on the Moth. 

But then I wonder what story it would be that I would tell. I think of all my collections of memories. We came across so much stuff while cleaning out the old house. Mom had a hard time parting with a lot of things. They held memories and value to her. I've never really felt that way about things. The memory and value of the memory is here, in my head. My dad died from complications of Alzheimer's. Near the end he forgot to eat. He forgot how to chew. He forgot how to swallow food. He forgot how to live. This disease is possibly hereditary. I may very well be walking around with the gene carrying a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and disintegrate things remembered. I've always been aware of the temporariness of things. Those tangible objects that we collect and hold so dear can be broken and smashed. Pictures can be torn and burned. Some objects lose memories and meaning completely. There have been times I've looked at one of the many elephants in my collection and could honestly say that I had no idea where that elephant came from. Others, I can remember whole stories behind the gift of receiving them like the elephant Pez Chris gave me that Christmas he surprised me with the pearl earrings. 

I think about my yoga teacher Karen. They used to live in an apartment in NY near the towers. On 9/11 they had to flee that apartment with a diaper bag, a baby under one arm and a cat under the other. They had already packed up their because they were making a life change, moving to a new city for a new job. Their apartment was full of their packed up things. They were told that they would never see those things again and that their building was a total loss. When Karen tells this story she talks about how they mourned their things. She says "we let them go, but we mourned our things." I always thought this was such a good description of emotions over lost stuff. I remember when Chris and I were robbed and how at the end of the day we were just glad it was our things they'd taken. No one was hurt. Later on one of us would reach for something that was no longer there and let out and "aw man! they took the..." We mourned our lost things once we realized it was missing. 

Karen follows up the story by saying that they did actually get all of the their things back. Everything had been boxed up for movers and was so well packed that everything survived. They mourned their lost things, bought new things to replace the old things, and then got their old things back. They shoved all of the boxes up into the attic to be sorted through at their leisure. She said when they finally got around to opening the boxes, every thing inside had a smell, like it had been in a fire, but worse. They ended up getting rid of it all any way. But we tend to hold on to things because they contain the stories. They are a tangible memory of that time you visited the Grand Canyon or ate a 72 oz steak. Except those tangible things get old, break down, take on funky smells, turn into garbage. The thing is not important, but pulling the memory free from the thing is. 

The paradox comes in where to store that memory. All things are fleeting. Maybe it's enough to hold onto the memory long enough to tell the story of it. Tell it just once. Remember that time we... Write it down someplace. Some people scoff at bloggers and their navel gazing. We all navel gaze. Bloggers make their's public. So what. I think of it as cleaning out. Memories are like things. They accumulate. Clutter tends to make me feel like I do in large crowds. I have no qualms in tossing it all out. Sometimes, my brain feels the same way. It gets so cluttered with these memories and they just swirl and swirl around in my head. It gets so overwhelming with them all swishing around there that the only relief is to pull them free and put them someplace.

The Moth Radio Hour is a someplace. Something to think about.