I have in my possession the memories of another. While attending a play recently, Wait Until Dark, I bought a few raffle tickets to help support the players and the theater. Well, it turned out I won, and what I thought was baskets containing gifts for multiple winners all went to me. Gift certificates to local restaurants and elsewhere, a wall clock, a basket of champagne, and a doll that was a central prop in the play.
This antique doll, so out of place in our home with no children, stares at me and asks me to invest in it meaning. She sits and waits upon my judgment as to what her fate will be. Is she to be cherished or dismissed, placed upon a shelf with pretty and delicate things or thrown in a box to be brought to Goodwill or, Heaven forbid, bagged and taken to the dump. Quite a burden to be placed on my shoulders. I never expected to win, and if I did I only really had my eyes on the champagne. I did not ask for this, but it has been thrust upon me and I now feel responsible for it.
How did I end up with it anyway? Why was it not given to one of the cast members, the female lead or the high-schooler playing the part of the young girl, a reminder of something they once held so dear? Have they so quickly moved on from something they invested so much of their time, talent, and efforts? For truly such an undertaking must have been a major commitment. A live performance of a full-length play is not something that can be accomplished lightly. Sacrifices must have been made by all involved, bonds must have been established, memories created…and then gone. A few nights live in front of an audience and it is all over, to be discarded like a prop that no longer has any use.
Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Shakespeare understood my thoughts. I wonder what where his feelings upon closing a show he had worked so hard to stage? Did he truly think it was the end or did he somehow know his plays would still be popular hundreds of years after his death?
That (among other reasons) is why I have chosen to be a writer rather than a performer, because I hold forth the (perhaps foolish) hope that what I create might outlive me. I dislike the notion of things going to waste, which explains why I sit here and ponder over the fate of this doll that is now in my possession. How wonderful and how generous of artists to give of so completely of their talent and then freely let go, saying goodbye to what has been and moving on to the next adventure. And what a precious gift it is to the audience to be able to share all of your hard work in the moment. I wish to honor your gift by hanging on to the memory you have created for me and for all those who attended your performances.
And there is the conundrum: you live in the moment and I seek something more. You are able to let go and I am reluctant to do so. Is not something worthwhile worth holding on to?
Yet those who are unwilling to let go of memories soon find themselves with basements cluttered with items too precious to part with, also known to the outside eye as “junk”. I can see myself on a future episode of Hoarders, the man who could let go of nothing. My fear, though, is that once I’ve started letting go, I won’t know when to stop, that once I admit one thing is not important I will come to see that nothing is really important. Once I let go my grip, everything shall fall from my fingers. Like it was for Macbeth, nothing shall mean anything to me any longer.
So here I sit and contemplate the fitting future of a doll that in reality has no actual feelings except those I and others invested in it. Because I don’t know where to draw the line between what matters and what doesn’t. Because someone gave to me what by rights belongs to another. Because we live in a world that too lightly tosses things and people and memories aside when they no longer interest us. Perhaps it is because I do not want to be tossed aside so lightly when I am no longer of any use or interest to others. Which is why I write, and I contemplate, so that perhaps my words might take on meaning and purpose of their own. Perhaps they may take up residence in the basement of someone’s soul. Or perhaps I would be content to have them amuse you for a brief span of time, like the actors who worked so hard to mirror for us the lives we briefly walk through. Somewhere between the past and the now lies meaning, there has to be. For if there is no meaning, there is no future, no point in what has been or what we are doing now.