Let’s start with a quote I use to introduce Book II in my forthcoming novel Beat the Blues. It’s due out in April of 2018. (Don’t worry–there won’t be too many commercials for it.)
Here’s the quote. It’s from Willa Cather’s My Antonia. “In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions. I did not wish to lose the early ones. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”
In Cather’s novel the male narrator reunites with a woman he greatly admired in his younger days. Perhaps he loved her. She’s changed now–lost some teeth, married, and given birth to double digit children. What else was there to do for recreation in Nebraska at the turn of the 19th century, right? But there’s something more in this quote. The phrase, Some memories are realities interests me.
I’d like to be able to look back at my own life and figure out when exactly that process began. When did memory become reality? I’m 64–not too old, but far from young. I can’t put a finger on a year. It’s tough to even pick a decade. But I know it happened to me, and I suspect it happens with many people.
Then there’s the next part of the sentence. The memories are better than anything that can ever happen to one again. That’s a cheery thought. Might as well grab a bottle and sit yourself down. Don’t bother with the new movie. It won’t touch the first Star Wars.
Is that what Cather means? I don’t think so. I think she’s focusing on the narrator’s unending affection for Antonia. I think she’s getting down to the brass tacks of what makes a relationship special. Years pass, yes. But it’s how we recall them that counts, how we keep memories tucked away and pull them out as needed, aces from our sleeve.
It doesn’t matter if someone sees you cheating. They’ve done it too. They’ll let you slide.