A couple days after Christmas my friend Mac, visiting from Brooklyn for a few days, left a brief message on my answering machine. There was nothing extraordinary about it--he simply forgot his leftover food after we ate dinner at Montage Catfish Parlor. But somehow I can't bring myself to delete the message:
Hey Brian, it's Mac...I uh...I think I...Hello?...Let me start over. I think left the leftover pork medallions in your car. So look for a giant pterodactyl shaped out of aluminum foil...and I'll talk to you soon.
There's nothing that special about the message itself, but I've long had an obsession with (or at least a keen interest in) preserving memories of good times and friends/family. I take photographs, I shoot video, I've kept a diary on and off, and then there's this web log. But through all of that, very little of that recorded memory has consisted of the human voice. (Video does, of course, but the visual image is dominant.) Ideally I'd love to have some kind of audio tape comprised of good conversations but also meaningless nonsequitors and impromptu remarks.
The few recordings I do have, tucked away in some old dusty box, mean a lot. For a high school history project, for example, I recorded an interview with my Grandpa Lehman about his memories of landing on the beaches of Normandy in World War II.
Where does the desire to catalog, preserve or even horde memories come from? Is it healthy, or does it mean I'm not living enough in the moment? Increasingly I've come to understand that change is constant and that you have consider life a trip down a river more than the stops you make along the way.
But it's been fun to play back a few times on the answering machine Mac's pork medallions message, especially since he is like a lot of old friends in that live far away and probably always will. That's a blessing and a curse for my generation--we've moved further out into the world than most of our parents have, and we've got friends and family scattered all over. Mac is in New York, and another close friend is back in DC, while others are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and so on. And Valarie's whole family is out in Pennsylvania.
I don't mean to elevate an answering machine message to more than what it is, but even as I accept the passage of time, I don't apologize for sentimentalizing treasured little documents now and then.