On paper, she is completely relatable, profound and insightful, even. She might actually be a kindred spirit, I think to myself as I read her posts. In real life, she is on the spectrum, eyebrows knitted, finding the negative in everything, including lilac blossoms. It gives me pause, pondering for a moment the image I project versus the human that I am.
Photographs and memories in the making are constantly shared on social media, but the reality? I’ve been ice-cold chilled to my core here in Whistler, and couldn’t wait tonight to hop into the hot tub after devouring half a bag of Old Dutch Canadian salt and vinegar chips and a homemade margarita. We all do this, I suspect, knowingly or otherwise. We consciously choose to paint ourselves in pastels and watercolors, when reality often suggests a page delineated with a permanent black marker scribbled haphazardly about.
I’m not sure which part is true, though. My smallest boy, on the brink of his eighth birthday, is still half-clothed in sweaty ski gear, lounging on the couch with the dull roar of cartoons breaking up the peaceful vacation vibe, his head warming my arm as I tap away on my iPhone, stream-of-consciousness style. These are the real moments, the life bits we fail to share because really, they aren’t worth mentioning. But they are also the moments I don’t care to let go of; the moments that disappear in the blink of an eye when he has a wife instead of a mom, when I’m the least important person in his life.
Maybe it’s the tequila talking. I don’t know. I’ve been looking forward to Costa Rica like nobody’s business–you just can’t imagine all that I want to share with my family this summer. But I’m also terrified that the reality won’t match the virtual reality in my head. The Arenal volcano no longer erupts on the daily as it did when I lived there in 1997, and I hear that Monteverde looks not one iota as it once did. Will this make our experience any less, that it doesn’t match the Costa Rica of my memory? Does the fact that we lounge on the hide-a-bed couch watching cartoons at Whistler aprés ski make this experience any less memorable? Or will this be the moment I remember, his heavy head resting on my forearm, my fingers combing his unruly cowlick into submission, the ice cubes in my margarita melting from the heat of the fire?
What constitutes memory, anyway? We don’t get to choose, do we? I look at my boys, wondering if their nostalgia will mirror my own, and I know in my heart the chances are unlikely.
Photographs and memories–disparate moments captured in time, perhaps rarely aligning. I’ll have another salt and vinegar chip (even though potato chips are not my thing). I’ll head down to the pool with my family, chat with an articulate, arrogant, and altogether intriguing local Israeli-Canadian man, fat snowflakes falling noiselessly through the night sky all the while. And I will find myself thinking about stepmother number one, Marlene, the Canadian who in some small part brought a piece of this experience to me. She was short, red-headed, and with a fiery personality and the cajones to throw salad and steaks against the kitchen wall in a fit of frustration. She loved me like her own baby girl, and I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night…probably salt and vinegar chips. Memory is such a trip. No beginning, no end, just points on the continuum, none that we get to choose.