My mind wandered deep into my past this morning, suddenly and for no apparent reason. In my mind’s eye, I saw images of items I probably last saw when I was a very young child.

I remembered tiny replicas of bulls, made of plaster of paris (I think) and covered in a velvet-like material intended to look like cow hide. And I viewed brilliantly-colored paintings of bullfights, rendered on black velvet and accented with glitter or other sparkling materials. Perhaps the setting for those items was a public market. Maybe some of them were in markets and some were in my house. The figurines of bulls, especially, seemed to belong to me. And I recalled how they appeared when they were broken; that’s where the idea they were made of plaster of paris comes from; when broken, I saw the hard, white interior beneath the velvet. I recall, but only vaguely, the powdery residue from the break.

Those items, I think, were imported from Mexico, which was just up the street from our house, as the crow flies. The bridge to Matamoros probably was more distant.  Those memories were dredged up from deep in my childhood; I must have been no more than four or five years old, still living in Brownsville, Texas. I tried to find samples of the tiny bulls, to no avail, by searching the internet. I suspect molded plastic replicas have replaced the plaster of paris figurines I remember from my childhood.

It’s only a guess, but I think, perhaps, large-scale dislocations in the social order, of the type and scope we are now experiencing, thanks to the coronavirus, tend to dredge up odd recollections of a lifetime ago. Those recollections trigger strange longings for things we may never have enjoyed in years gone by, but which today evoke a sense of safety and comfort. Again, it’s just conjecture. Why else would one remember such trivial stuff? Actually, I have a theory that our brains record almost every experience in our lives, but memories of most experiences erode over time, leaving for many of them only a tarnished skeleton, stripped of most of the meat of the event. When, for whatever reason, we retrieve the memory from deep in the recesses of our minds, we unknowingly pad the skeleton with facsimiles of the details that one might reasonably expect to have covered it. So our memories are based on both fact and fiction. Just like our present-day lives. More conjecture.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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