Tag: memories

Charlie’s Room: The Red Hat

One year, soon after Charlie was born, Marianne gave Isaac a red knit cap for Valentine’s day. “Did you make it for me?” he asked.

“No, I bought it at the market. But it looks warm, doesn’t it?”

Isaac put the hat on. It was warm and soft and just the right size. “I love it!” he said. And he wore it often. February was still quite cold, so he wore it many times that year.

They also took pictures of baby Charlie sleeping inside the hat. The brim was pulled up near his chin, and he looked like he was in a tiny sleeping bag.

Isaac loved his red hat. He was careful with it, and didn’t loan it out to anybody. And yet, years and years later, the hat looked worn. It wasn’t nearly as red or soft. There were spots where the yarn was stretched thin and matted.

One morning, as Isaac was getting ready to leave, Charlie looked up at him and frowned. “You need a new hat, dad.”

Isaac put his hands up to hover protectively next to his hat. “I love this hat. It’s as old as you are, you know.”

“Yes, yes.” Charlie rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen the pictures.”

“It’s hard to believe you were that small, right?”

“I got bigger because I got older. Just like your hat got older.”

Isaac covered his ears. “I didn’t hear that.”


Marianne came out of the kitchen drying her hands on a towel. She looked at Isaac and frowned. “You need a new hat.”

“See?” Charlie folded his arms across his chest and smiled.

Isaac stepped towards the door. “I really have to go now. Maybe we can talk about this later.” He opened the door and stepped outside. “Bye.” He closed the door and hurried to his car.

When he arrived at work, he left the red hat on his desk. It almost felt like he was sitting at the bedside of an old friend who had been given a terrible diagnosis. “Don’t worry,” he told the hat. “You have plenty of good years left. I’ll bring home a movie and some ice cream and they’ll forget all about this terrible new hat idea.”

The movie and ice cream distraction idea seemed to work. They had a fun evening, and nobody mentioned hats once. Isaac hid the hat under his pillow just in case.

He was pretty sure they wouldn’t get rid of his favorite hat without his permission, but he didn’t want to take any chances. There was that one time that his mom threw out his favorite boots just because there was a hole in the toe. For weeks before that he stuffed newspaper inside and his foot had stayed mostly dry and his socks were only a little stained by the newspaper ink.

It wasn’t that he had a hard time throwing things away. Not usually, anyway. But when something had enough good memories attached to it, it was hard to give it up.

Things that were well-loved had a certain glow about them. Miss Marta’s gray shawl had that glow. So did one of Mr. Johnson’s ties that was covered in tiny elephants, and Charlie’s lucky socks, and Marianne’s tiny green earrings. To Isaac his hat glowed brightest of all, but that might just be because it was his and he loved it best.

The next morning, when Isaac put the red hat on, Charlie frowned, but he didn’t say anything. Marianne stepped out of the kitchen to say goodbye. She looked at the hat and frowned. But she didn’t say anything about the hat either. Isaac relaxed. His hat was safe.

A month later, it was Valentine’s day. Isaac hummed happy birthday to his hat as he put it on. He was looking forward to an evening of pizza and board games.

Marianne and Charlie met him at the door after work. Charlie held up a lumpy present wrapped in shiny red paper and taped closed with what looked like most of a roll of tape. “I just finished your present.”

Isaac finished putting his coat away and changed out of his shoes. Then he took the present and examined it from all sides. “Let’s go sit on the couch. That looks like it may take a little while to unwrap.”

“You aren’t going to try to open it without ripping the paper, right?” Charlie tugged on the present. “I’ll open it. You take too long.”

Isaac kept a tight hold on his present. “It’s my present. Unwrapping it is part of the fun. Enjoy the journey.”

Marianne sighed. “Let’s go make cocoa. He’ll still be unwrapping when it’s ready.”

Luckily, Isaac discovered a corner where the tape was applied less densely, and soon enough he was able to slide out a soft, bright, red, knit something. “Is this a hat?” he asked. He wasn’t sure how he felt about a new hat. Could he really replace his old hat and all the memories it represented?

“Of course it is.” Charlie grinned. “I made it for you myself. Mom helped.”

Isaac looked down at his new red hat. It glowed even brighter than the old one. “I love it,” he said.

The Lost Secret of Time Travel

It was an ordinary Thursday when Emily discovered the secret of time travel. She had been sitting by a window, watching the rain, when she noticed a red umbrella moving along the sidewalk below. In a moment, she was transported into a memory.

The umbrella was the same color as the red geraniums that her grandmother grew in pots along her window sill. Emily remembered sitting backwards on the living room couch to watch the rain out the window, with the red geraniums on the windowsill below, just at the edge of her vision. The memory was sharp and powerful, but seeing it in her mind was not the same as time travel.

And yet, Emily could remember her grandmother’s house as though she was there. Mentally, she could walk the rooms as they were, even though it had been at least a decade since her grandmother’s death. The rooms were not the same now. The house was not the same.

However, Emily could remember just how her grandmother’s house smelled. It didn’t take much thought to remember the taste of the raspberries in the bushes that were once behind the house and were no longer there. In her memories, everything was still just as it once was.

Emily sat up in her chair, confused. Surely she couldn’t remember something so completely and well if it no longer existed at all. Something so solid and real that she could close her eyes and it was there, as real as anything she could see with her eyes open, was surely something greater than any other more ephemeral thought.

If it existed in the past, and she could visit it in her memory, surely memories held the key to time travel. But how could you physically visit a memory? If you remembered it perfectly would you somehow be able to step inside the memory?

If you remembered the memory perfectly enough to feel like it was real, would it matter if you were physically there again or not? Emily frowned and drew a geranium on the budget proposal she was working on. Then she erased it.

If you were really, physically there in the memory, would you be replacing your younger self? If you changed something, would you be stuck there? What would happen to the future, if it was already there, the same as the past? Would it change too?

And what about other times? Once you learned the trick of traveling through time, assuming you didn’t get stuck, could you travel there too? Could you learn enough about a historical time to create a memory to visit?

Emily filled out the budget proposal. When it was time to present it, She stood at the front of the conference room, and the room began to shake. Everyone dove under the tables. There were cracking and creaking sounds from all sides. Somebody screamed.

Without any conscious effort, Emily suddenly recalled sitting at her breakfast table that morning. She was sitting at the table in her pajamas, eating oatmeal with a little milk and raspberry jam. Eyes wide open, Emily recalled every detail of that moment.

She could no longer hear the creaking or screaming. She could no longer see the conference room. She was there, in that moment, eating the last bite of oatmeal.

Strangely enough, when she got up to rinse her bowl, she was still there, sitting in her chair. She watched herself walk away to get ready for the day without looking back. Uncertain of what to do, Emily hid in the guest room until she heard the front door close.

It didn’t take much research to discover that it really was six hours earlier. She’d gone back in time. Or she was in a coma somewhere. She pinched her arm. It hurt.

She got dressed, picked up an old purse and gathered all the change from the jar. Then she went to the corner store. Everyone could see her. She could see and pick up things that she hadn’t seen in her memory.

Grabbing a few apples, she headed to the check out. On her way, there was a display of odds and ends. She picked up a red umbrella.

Hours later, she walked along the sidewalk, protected from the rain by that red umbrella. She knew that this was the time she’d looked out the window, but there were no other red umbrellas to be seen. She entered a cafe further along the street and watched for another half hour.

There were no other red umbrellas. Had she seen herself? Was that proof of her time travel? What would happen if she tried to change something else? What would happen if she traveled back even further? She looked at the red umbrella, folded closed like a flower bud, and thought of red geraniums.

Emily disappeared that day, in the middle of the terrible earthquake that leveled the office building where she worked. Authorities assumed she died during the collapse or during the fire that swept the area soon after. The secret of time travel was lost to the world yet again.

But Emily still knew it, whenever she was.

Charlie’s Room: Vacation

“But I don’t want to go on vacation.” Charlie slumped in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.

“I thought that you wanted to go see the horses. You’ve been talking about this for weeks.” Marianne set her fork down with a frown.

“Well I don’t. Not anymore. I want to stay home.” Charlie slumped down further in his chair. Just his eyes were visible above the edge of the table.

Marianne sighed. “What brought this on? Is there something in particular that you’re worried about?”

“I just don’t want to go. That’s all. I want to stay here.”

“I like staying home best too,” Isaac said.

Charlie sat up a little straighter. “Then we don’t have to go?”

Marianne turned to Isaac. “That’s not helping.”

“I don’t know.” Isaac looked past both of them to the window. It was evening, but the sky was still light out. Summer hadn’t ended yet, but he knew the end was coming. The seasons seemed to change faster and faster anymore. He missed the never-ending summers of his childhood.

“What do you mean?” Charlie was sitting up straight now. He leaned forward, hands on the table. “Are we going or not?”

“I like staying home best, but I really like having fun memories of fun things we did as a family too. It’s fun to sit and remember those times when we’re here at home. Remember the corn maze and how lost I got?”

Charlie grinned. “I was the one who found the way out. You couldn’t read the map, but I could.”

Isaac nodded. “It wasn’t fun to be lost. My feet hurt by the time we went home. But it was amazing when you just looked at the map and knew which way to go.”

Charlie giggled.

Marianne smiled. “I drank all the pumpkin juice while I waited for you to come out, and I had to go buy more.”

“That was a lot of fun. I hope we go again this year,” Charlie said. “Why can’t we just be gone during the day like that? I wouldn’t mind just being gone during the day.”

“You don’t like sleeping somewhere else?” Isaac asked.

Charlie shrugged. “I guess. It just feels weird. And who’s going to take care of the garden? If something goes wrong, we’ll be so far away.”

Isaac nodded. “I worry about things like that too.”

“You do?”

Marianne smiled. “The new neighbors will take great care of the garden. We can leave them instructions if you’re worried.”

“We’ll all be sleeping in the same hotel room while we’re gone. Hotel rooms aren’t home, but I think it feels a little safer when we’re all together.” Isaac handed Charlie another roll.

Charlie started smashing the roll flat. “Do we have to go?”

“We don’t have to go,” Isaac said. “But I think we should.”

Charlie tore off a piece of flattened bread and rolled it between his fingers. “But why?”

“I told you that I like having fun memories of things we do together, like the pumpkin patch.” Isaac paused and looked at Charlie. Charlie nodded. “Well, I think it’s good to have a variety of memories. Otherwise they kind of blend together, and it’s hard to separate them. It feels like fewer memories. The time goes by so fast. You’ll see. Sooner than you think, it will be the end of the week, and we’ll be home. And then we’ll have the memories to look back on.”

“And we’ll be at home talking about the horses,” Charlie said.

“That’s right. It’s like watching the rain while being inside safe and warm.” Isaac smiled.

“That sounds nice.” Marianne picked up her fork again.

“I guess it’s just a week.” Charlie finished rolling up the last piece of smooshed bread. “I still don’t want to go.”

“Me either. But won’t it be fun to see the horses?”

“I guess so.” Charlie started eating his bits of bread.

Marianne smiled. “Now that’s settled, I have a list of things we need to do before we go…”

The Argument

Mr. Moffet opened the door and stepped outside to check the weather. It was cold enough for his warmer coat. Satisfied with the results of his research, he headed back inside. Unfortunately, he was in a hurry and neglected to wipe his feet on the way inside.

Mrs. Moffet had mopped the floor the night before. It was the last item on a long list of things to do to finally clean up after all the mess and cheer of the holidays. It wasn’t a pleasant task, but the floor looked great, and it was nice to finish off the list and start the new year with a clean house.

When Mrs. Moffet looked up from her bowl of cereal and saw the muddy footprints left in Mr. Moffet’s wake, she was unhappy. “Look at that. You’re messing up all my hard work.”

Mr. Moffet had no idea what Mrs. Moffet was talking about, but he was in a hurry. “Why do you always blame me for everything? I don’t have time for this. We can talk later.” He grabbed his lunch and left. Thus began the long argument.

The muddy footprints greeted Mrs. Moffet when she returned from work. She didn’t have time in the morning to mop again. Now they were mostly dry. Too wet to sweep, too dry to mop. It was going to be a long slog of crawling on the floor wiping things up with paper towels before she could mop.

She considered leaving the mess for Mr. Moffet, but decided he’d probably pretend he didn’t see the mess. After all, he looked right past it that morning. She changed and got to work. As she cleaned, she felt angrier.

Seeing the clean floor once again helped her calm down. Making a mug of hot cocoa and putting her feet up helped even more. She was ready for a calm discussion when Mr. Moffet came home.

He was late. Mrs. Moffet worried a bit, because he hadn’t let her know why he was late or when he’d be home. Worrying made her grumpy. Mr. Moffet was grumpy because he was late, and that meant he spent extra time at work. He didn’t get paid extra for spending extra time at work, so he preferred not to.

“You’re late,” Mrs Moffet declared when he walked in the door.

“Excellent observation,” Mr. Moffet snapped back.

“Now there’s not time to make the soup,” Mrs. Moffet continued.

“What have you been doing all this time? You weren’t late.”

“I was cleaning up your mess!”

“This again?” Mr. Moffet shoved his arms back in his coat sleeves. “I’ll go get a pizza. See? Now I’m fixing your mess.” And he slammed the door on the way out.

They ate the pizza in silence, not looking at each other. They watched their favorite television show side-by-side in silence. At bedtime, Mrs. Moffet decided it was time to talk about the argument. “I spent all afternoon mopping, you know?”

“Again? Weren’t you just mopping yesterday? You must really like to mop,” Mr. Moffet said. Then he closed the bathroom door and forgot all about it.

In the morning, there was a note on the door. It said, “Wipe Your Feet Or You’ll Have to Mop the Whole House Yourself.” Mr. Moffet looked at the note. He wasn’t sure where this new obsession with mopping came from.

He stepped outside to check the weather. It was raining. The path was slippery with mud from the flowerbed. It was higher than the path. Maybe if he put in a brick border, the dirt would stay in place. He made mental plans to pick up bricks on his way home.

He remembered to wipe his feet.

Things seemed mostly back to normal when Mr. Moffet left for work. He decided the argument was probably due to Mrs. Moffet having a grumpy morning and decided to forget it. He got home early from work and spent hours putting in a brick border around the flowerbed.

He wiped his feet going inside, then left his muddy clothes on the carpet beside the clothes hamper and wiped his muddy fingers on the towels in the bathroom before touching the taps.

Mrs. Moffet didn’t notice the brick border. She did notice the muddy clothes on the carpet and the muddy towels. She had another mess to clean up, and she could only hope the mud wouldn’t stain the carpet. The towels were probably a lost cause.

When Mrs. Moffet came storming into the kitchen, Mr. Moffet smiled. “Did you notice anything different?” he asked eagerly.

“What is it with you and mud?” Mrs. Moffet asked, looking angry.

Mr. Moffet wasn’t sure how to answer the question or why Mrs. Moffet was upset. “I don’t like it on the path? Look, I bought hamburgers to celebrate!”

“Celebrate what? The ruined carpet?” Mrs. Moffet yelled.

“No, my project. The border. Didn’t you notice?” Mr. Moffet yelled back.

“Didn’t you notice the mess you made? And I was going to make soup!”

Mr. Moffet took a deep breath to yell again, and then paused. “What are we arguing about?”

Mrs. Moffet frowned. “You keep leaving mud all over for me to clean up.”

“But I remembered to wipe my feet.”

Mrs. Moffet shook her head. “You didn’t yesterday, and there was a big mess. And today you left muddy clothes on the carpet and wiped mud on the towels.”

Mr. Moffet went to the bedroom to check. He was sure it wasn’t so bad. There was a big mess. He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed. Mrs. Moffet came in. “You’ll need to put the clothes and towels on the washer so I can treat them for stains. We’ll see how that goes. It’s not going to be easy getting the mud out of the carpet, either.”

“Mud can stain things?”

“Of course it can!”

Who knew mud was so messy? He played in it all the time as a child without problems. Perhaps the mud here was different. At least he finally knew what the argument was about. “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful now that I know.”

And with that, the long argument was over. They happily chatted over their hamburgers and made fun of their favorite show. There would be other arguments in the Moffet household, but none of them lasted as long. Years later, they still sometimes talked about the long argument and laughed. They were just grateful it hadn’t lasted any longer.