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This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "Once Upon a Time."

Photos representing highlights of my life so far are
viewable in a montage I created for this entry, Memory's Snowball, viewable on GetLoupe.com.
Some, but not all, of the memories mentioned below are depicted in the montage, as well as many others.
You can hover over any photo to see a larger version of it.
If you click on any photo, it takes you to the original page, where you can read a caption about it.

Love swells within me for the tiny baby. I must stand on my tip-toes and reach down far to hold his hand as he lies in the crib. He is my baby brother, and I am his big sister. His hand is amazingly soft, and he peers up with bright, blue eyes.

This memory, like many, is underscored by a family photo: in this case, blurry and taken at an angle, as if taken suddenly. Sometimes I wonder if I really remember that moment, or if I have created a memory from looking at the photo, a story to tell myself about my life.

Nevertheless, I pack that memory tight against others from around that time period: sitting in a swath of sunlight, playing with my dolls; making up stories for my brother from a book that he doesn't know I can't read; dancing and singing for my parents on my "stage," a wide landing on the living room steps. These memories are packed densely, the beginnings of a snowball.

From diapers to big-girl clothes, and I savor memories of cooking classes at the Salvation Army. I ride tricycles with my brother. At age 5, I lose my plastic Mickey Mouse ring, white with red sparkles, while watching Dad mow the lawn. Dad offers to replace it, but we cannot find another one. I mourn that Mickey ring as much as the family dog I accidentally kill by opening the gate, allowing him to run into the street. I pack these memories tight.

Rolling further ahead, I am seven when my mom births my little sister. If possible, she is even cuter than my brother: a perky little elf with vivid blue eyes and wispy strawberry blonde hair. When Mom finally lets me hold her, her tiny face wrinkles and turns bright red; I'm not her mama. I make up for it over the next 10 years, playing Barbies with her (making sure our Barbies are independent career women), creating a special club for her and her friends when the boys start a no-girls-allowed clubhouse, playing dress up and encouraging her to sing and write, to color and dance. These memories, packed tight, form a crystal layer over the last days of my childhood.

At college, I meet a zany crew of like-minded geeks who love me as I am. For once, I no longer worry whether I'm wearing the latest trends correctly (the answer was always "no"). I let down my hair -- literally, to the middle of my back -- and parade with them through a world of Spam, Spam, Spam, Diner stickies and Spam. The student radio station gives me 15 minutes of fame; I'm Dr. Johnny Fever, as a girl. Now at last, the quote from my high-school yearbook makes sense: "I've never been so strong / now I'm where I belong." I pack these memories tight, to make room for more.

Like the proverbial groundhog, spooked by real-life's shadow, I return to school for six more weeks (or three years, who's counting?). As I earn my MFA, I pack in memories of poetry readings, running around campus with LARP vampires, and meeting my first husband, a dream-seeking hippy. These memories, packed on, make the ball grow tall as my waist.

I pack on post-graduate memories of a whirlwind marriage, including a trip up the Mississippi for an encounter with a bear who breaks our car window and steals our food. Later I dream of a bear goddess climbing in my window and thanking me for the bread. I pack on memories of ill-fated relationships with one boyfriend who's worth forgetting (except for taking some amazing black-and-white portraits of me) and another boyfriend who couldn't say "I love you" but yet loved me enough to direct me to a counselor who helped me make sense of my previous bad relationships.

The ball is so big now, and I realize that it is rolling downhill. I think perhaps it always has been, but I didn't notice.

More memories, and the ball whizzes faster and faster. Meeting my second husband through my beloved college buddies, flirting with him by asking him to autograph a banana (an in-joke that is funnier to us than to anyone else), wine festivals, plays, movies, silliness. Our space-age wedding, our Disney World honeymoon, where the real-life Mickey poses for a picture with us (and finally makes up for that long-lost ring).

Then, when things couldn't get any better, I pack on memories of my growing belly, my son who bears my red "V" birthmark and his father's eyes. I pack on an endless progression of firsts: crawling, pulling up, eating, walking, babbling, speaking, dancing, running. We kick soccer balls together and share in-jokes: such as getting on all fours and mewing loudly at our bemused kitty. Many, many more memories to pack on.

And all the time, the ball whirls faster and faster, accumulating more and more. There are so many memories now, it is no wonder I no longer have room for phone numbers or, say, the exact location of my keys. Like Albert Einstein, I want to save my brain for the important things: my magnificent growing snowball, spinning faster and faster as it grows ever bigger.

ETA: If you have any problems with the photos, please let me know. I just realized that most of the Facebook pics were originally set as "friends only," so I've tried to make them all public, but I might have missed a couple.

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
Awwwww! This is beautiful, and so well-written. I think I'd rather have room for life and love and memories than for phone numbers, too. :)
May. 15th, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
Thank you! It's another one of those entries that has marinated in my brain all weekend long, while I was doing other things, until I finally got a chance to write it.
(no subject) - jem0000000 - May. 15th, 2012 05:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - May. 15th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 15th, 2012 04:40 am (UTC)
Autographing a banana! That's great!

And I bet Disney world is a great place for a honeymoon. I've never been there but it sounds like fun:)

I like how you mention "in jokes" In a way, I think that's what makes a family, all those little odd things only your relatives understand and you never have to explain..everyone knows the story.

I really enjoyed your entry!:)
May. 15th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
Thanks! The short version of the banana story is that he had been shepherding a guest at an anime convention and brought her lunch. She jokingly signed her banana and gave it to him, and I teased him that it meant she wanted him. So after we'd been flirting the whole convention, on the last day, I asked him to autograph a banana for me.

Disney World was GREAT for our honeymoon. They gave us "Just Married" pins, and everyone was so nice to us that it was like we were royalty. I actually cried while watching the evening parade at the Magic Kingdom, with the fireworks over Cinderella's castle. I bet there are lots of people who have dreamed of seeing that sight with their own "Prince Charming." :)

In jokes are so much fun. I've actually let my husband in on some of the family in-jokes, like the ones between my brother and sister and I, so that I have someone to share them with when my siblings aren't around.

Glad you liked it!
May. 15th, 2012 05:44 am (UTC)
There are so many memories now, it is no wonder I no longer have room for phone numbers or, say, the exact location of my keys.
Parenthood was when those little bits of "extra" information started to fall out of my head, too. You think you're busy before, but it's a different world afterward, and perhaps some of what crowds things out is all of the "more" you want to hang onto.

Lovely entry!
May. 15th, 2012 06:01 am (UTC)
Thank you! I have new appreciation for all moms now. And new sympathy for them, as well.
May. 15th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
I think I've created memories from early childhood photographs. It's hard to tell the difference. I like the snowball metaphor :)
May. 15th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It came out of a discussion I had with my husband when I was trying to come up with what to do with this topic. I liked the idea of combining stories from my life with a metaphor that depicted the perception of time, how it seems to move faster as I get older.
May. 15th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
So sweet, I loved this. In some ways, it's the complete opposite of what I've posted this week- watching a life grow together instead of grow apart.

We honeymooned in WDW too, which made me love the parks even more than I already did as a child and kind of solidified it as my favorite place in the world.
May. 15th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
I'm going to go read yours right now.

I would recommend WDW for any honeymooners. While my husband had been there a couple times, I'd never gone. We both agreed that we would get bored just lying around a beach for a week; so we wanted a place with plenty to see. We sure found it!
May. 15th, 2012 08:49 pm (UTC)
Sometimes your entries resonate so much with me. This is one of those times.

The ball is so big now, and I realize that it is rolling downhill. I think perhaps it always has been, but I didn't notice.

This line here really says it all. Beautiful.
May. 15th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This metaphor really worked for me, once I came up with it. For me, it perfectly described my experiences.

I'd be curious to know if anyone has checked out the photo collage. It took me far more than it should have. Unfortunately, the embed code they gave me didn't work with LJ, so I had to just use the link.
May. 15th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful idea, the memory snowball, I love it. Well done.
May. 16th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.
May. 15th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
Beautifully done, and I love the pictures (I must admit to looking at them before reading the entry). And wow - your memories are so detailed.

How was your wedding space age?
May. 16th, 2012 02:18 am (UTC)
Thank you! I pride myself on remembering details, which always makes it surprising when I realize there are gaps.

Our wedding was "Space Age" because we emulated a 1960s space age style. It all started, oddly enough, because my husband didn't want to wear a tie, and we agreed that either a Nehru jacket or a jacket with banded collar would look best on him. I did a lot of research into the Space Age aesthetic and then communicated that with our florist and the coordinator at our site. We had flowers in all white; white coverings for the chairs and tables that went all the way to the floor and wrapped underneath, giving them a streamlined look much like the plastic furniture of the '60s; and our colors were teal and silver with red and yellow as secondary colors. I found a bunch of photos of Space Age art and architecture, along with photos from NASA and space, and put together a slide show that looped on a screen off to the side. We worked with the DJ to plan out the music: "space lounge" music for the cocktail hour (groups like Esquivel), spacey vintage and modern music for the dinner hour, and then lots of danceable hits from the '80s, '90s and new millennium. Each table was named after a different planet, with NASA photos of those planets as the table card. My dress was a tea-length dress (couldn't find a minidress and also didn't think I wanted to go that far with the concept). We agreed that, when we walked into the reception, it looked like the coolest, exclusive club we'd ever been in.
May. 16th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
What a beautiful way to share and think of your memories! I'm on my phone so looking at photos wouldn't be easy, but I'll try to come back :)
May. 16th, 2012 02:11 am (UTC)
Thank you! They're not necessary to appreciate the piece, but they're a fun bonus, if you have the time.
May. 16th, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
Aww, loved this :)

Funnily, just last night I was discussing with someone how when we were little, we could remember EVERYONE's phone numbers and now... I don't even know my own yet! (I've only had the phone a month, but that's still ample time to learn ten digits!) And maybe it's because all the numbers are stored in my phone so I don't need to remember them... but maybe also because I have more memories and things to remember now :D I mean, I could get myself to the theatre in Stuttgart blindfolded. I don't need to remember if a friend's email addy is .com or .com.au if gmail will remember it for me ;)

Ahh, posted comment and then saw the collage open in the next tab. The petting zoo picture was the first I clicked on and it made me giggle! Wow, I am so tempted to make one of those myself one day, but it sure looks like a ton of work. Project for a rainy weekend! (Also wow, your college graduation pic is gorgeous and I want your hair. *covets*)

Edited at 2012-05-16 01:46 am (UTC)
May. 16th, 2012 02:10 am (UTC)
That photo collage was an idea that... snowballed out of control, so to speak! It was actually an afterthought, because I contemplated illustrating the piece with embedded photos and decided that would break up the text too much. You do have to have the photos parked somewhere online for this particular photo collage site: such as Tumblr or Facebook. That's what took all the time, really, because I had to upload a bunch of stuff to Tumblr that I had in other locations. They have a number of different shapes that you can have your photos turned into. I loved that idea.

The petting zoo has been one of my personal favorites for a long time. I always found it amusing that my parents would take pictures of me even when I looked cross, because it was a "Kodak moment," so to speak. "The petting zoo! Take a picture! Never mind that she'd not petting anything." Maybe they thought it was cute.

Thanks about the college graduation picture compliments. That's one of my favorites of all time. Unfortunately, I never was that good at long hair, since I've had short hair most of my life. I've gone back and forth in my adult years: about 10 years long and then 10 years short-ish. That means I'll probably decide to grow it out again in another two years. My hair has a lot of body: it doesn't get long so much as get "big." This is ironic, because in the days when "big hair" was all the rage, I deliberately had the shortest, most androgynous hairstyle possible. I used to wear a men's black fedora, too, although I didn't have a picture of that handy. Ah, the '80s.
May. 16th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)
Love the marriage of words and images! Also a big Disney fan, and your wedding sounds a-MAY-zing!
May. 16th, 2012 03:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I wish I could have included more pics from the wedding itself, but I had limited daily uploads on Tumblr.
May. 16th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful, and I'm glad someone finally successfully explained to me why I've gotten to a point where I can't remember my own name half the time.
May. 16th, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
It's simple: too much stuff packed in there! Glad you liked it.
May. 16th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
Such awesome pictures, probably took some time to put together, yet you didn't use it as an excuse to scrimp on the written portion of the entry which is amazing in it's own right. Well done.
May. 16th, 2012 06:06 pm (UTC)
In this case, the idea for the piece was rooted in the written section, and the photo section arose when I started to consider how to illustrate it. And yes, the photo collage took hours and hours!
(Deleted comment)
May. 16th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I had fun with it.
May. 16th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Oh this is wonderfully sweet!
Jul. 5th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Sorry about the delayed reply.
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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