Betty Diaries: Remember not to forget
I’m posting a picture of my dog to my Instagram. Scrolling through my feed, I realize it’s Memorial Day. A day to remember. And how easily we forget.
I remember the day I visited the beaches of Normandy in the spring of 2011. To be honest, I was never a great student of history or geography. I had always imagined it like this: a beach in a town in the north of France. I didn’t imagine a whole region. I didn’t realize there were actually five beaches, not just one. I imagined it to be like the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” A cinematic wash of Kodachrome drained of all its color, save for bloody red.
I remember a huge ledge covered with roses, the bluest sea beyond, the waves gently kissing the shoreline, the water like brilliant broken diamonds, tessellated and dazzling in the sunlight. The sky was clear blue. The beach was much wider than I’d ever imagined. The barest impressions of form, the brightest colors blurring one into the other, the most glorious light.
I think of all of the things we’re supposed to remember.
Remember to apply sunscreen every two hours.
Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room.
Remember to call your mother.
Remember your anniversary. The birthdays of your best friends. Your boss’s kids’ names. Your neighbor’s dog.
Remember to floss. If not every day, then at least for two weeks prior to your dentist appointment.
Remember to slow down. To breathe. To stop and smell the lilacs. To taste your food. To listen to the sound of birds chirping. To tune out the sound of the butthead behind you on line at Starbucks who is hosting a very important business meeting on his iPhone.
Remember that it’s OK to pull the sheets over your head and go to sleep at 7 p.m. sometimes. Tomorrow is another day.
Remember not to take yourself too seriously. To listen more than you talk. As Frank Zappa said, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open.”
Remember to send a handwritten thank-you note once in awhile instead of a text. The act of pen on paper makes thoughts flow in a completely different way than tapping on a keyboard.
Remember to go easy on yourself. So you had an ultra-thin mini pad accidentally attached to the back of a jacket that you wore to a job interview. You tripped up the stairs and dropped a $30 pie you were bringing to a party. You called in sick on a pow day and ended up on the chairlift with your boss.
Remember when you started smoking because it was cool. Remember how hard it was to quit.
Remember to pack your toothbrush, phone charger, umbrella, swimsuit.
Remember to detox before you retox.
Remember to say please, thank you, hello and goodbye. And “No” is a complete sentence.
Remember kids play checkers on funny green squares. Also, kids play checkers on fat Gus’s stomach. Also, King Philip came over for good sex. Also, mnemonic devices really work.
Remember to take one step at a time. Even one inch at a time is progress.
I remember how wide, how vast and how utterly beautiful Omaha beach was on that day in 2011. I stood on the cliff and looked past those cheerful pink sea roses to the sand, pristine and silent but for the call of some gulls and the rolling surf. It was nearly impossible to imagine the soldiers on D-Day making their way across that golden expanse. It was hard to understand how a place of such tranquility could ever have held such carnage. Such courage.
I remember glancing to my left. And that’s when I saw them. Row upon row of immaculate white crosses and stars of David, perfectly aligned across an enormous green lawn.
Remember Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Remember the thousands of people who sacrificed everything in the name of freedom. Inch by inch, through waist-deep water. Across this ocean, across this sand, across time. To this very moment.
Yesterday, this poem by Nanao Sakaki popped up in my Instagram feed:
If you have time to chatter
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
Sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
And that is when I remembered how easy it is to forget.
I just returned from an interesting vacation in the mysterious East. This is the annual bike trip with a very eclectic group of friends who have been doing these trips in one form or another for about 40 years now. This year we were in the Finger Lakes area of New York. It was strikingly different from here.
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