The fuzziness of memory

Some things are fuzzy. Tonight, as I was falling asleep to a 538 podcast on the Latino vote, it was the image of the main downstairs bathroom at my grandparents home that came to mind. Don’t ask me why.

It was a large bathroom. Though everything in my memories from childhood is large, both an artifact of the fact that these memories are from when I was small and that many of the urbanized spaces I occupied were small in comparison to those in American suburbia. So this was a relatively large bathroom.

It was a sad one as well. Maybe there is a vague olfactory memory of mildew that makes me think that, though no visual memories of such visit me. Maybe it was the black toilet seat. Or the memories of my grandma sitting somewhere with her feet in a bucket of scalding water. The overall memory is there, but it’s so hard to focus on specific parts. I can’t really see any details on the bathtub, the shower is hazy. I can’t see a shower curtain. But on the shelf below the large mirror, I can see my grandfather’s shaving equipment. A yellow brush he used to put the shaving cream on his face. Even then this was terribly old fashioned, as were the jars of gomina, the hair gel my uncle Mikita kept in the upstairs bathroom. The brush puzzled me. My father didn’t use one. It puzzles me now whether my memories of it are all from before my grandfather died (the summer before I turned seven, I confirmed this with my mother), or whether that brush remained in its place after he died, forgotten, with nobody bothering to throw it away. I wish, I was thinking as I was falling asleep, that I could print these images in my brain and then look at them more closely. Maybe then they wouldn’t escape me as water or very fine sand, between my fingers.

Like the memory I just had of a boat trip through what seems like a swamp. A long time ago, but where? Somewhere in the Yucatán peninsula when I wrote that chapter for a guidebook right after college? Or maybe in Nicaragua, but then why can’t I recall Mike being there? Or is it totally a dream?

My family in front of my grandparents house. The window on the wall on the left looks into the bathroom I described. In the photo, my mother is standing. My grandmother Zuni seats holding my brother besides my grandfather Tito, who is holding my sister. My uncle Titi holds his son Fernandito and my aunt Cuqui, her son Luisito. I am the one in the middle with a grouchy face.

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