Recreating a memory

I was hanging out at the Westport Arts Center’s ArtCafe last Friday and got to talking with my friend Helen Klisser During about something that happened to her recently. It made me think about memories – how they’re formed, how we re-create them, and how they differ from the original event in the recreation. The story Helen told me was about a friend with a memory which Helen helped her recreate. Now I’m writing about it, so recreating it again. It may be different from the actual event, but that’s what being creative is about. I’m not big on heart-warming stories, especially when they’re designed to tug at your heartstrings. But this one is true, or as true as I can make it. Are you writing your memories down as they happen?
Helen was walking along the beach in Westport the other day with a friend of hers, Susan. It was a blustery day, but the beach always makes for great photos and Helen is am professional photographer, among other things. Westport likes to pride itself on having repulsed 2000 redcoats British in 1777 (after they’d set fire to the town of Danbury), and to commemorate this event there are two cannons located at the beach, pointing out to sea, in case the British (my friends and I) ever decide to invade again. Too late, of course, we’re here already, but I’ll let that pass…
“When I was a little girl, said Susan wistfully, “I used to sit on those cannons.” Helen’s ears pricked up. What she heard was” I wish I could sit on that cannon again…” Susan was 87.
Helen decided she’d never forgive herself if she attempted to hoist Susan up onto a cannon and anything went wrong. But she really wanted to make this wish come true. Across the parking lot, she spied a couple of young men who had descended from their motor bikes to smoke a cigarette in the fresh sea air. Helen marched up them and asked if they’d be willing to help.
“Sure,” they said. They swaggered over to the cannon and, very gently, helped Helen’s friend to sit astride. Then they supported her, but out of sight, so that Helen could record the whole thing on film. Here are some of the pictures:

Easy does it!


“By the way,” Helen told me, “Susan’s family think I am a bit of a risk taker, because Susan mentioned at the end of last summer how she used to love to go  sailing with her sister  in the sound – something I do 3 or 4 times a week – racing with a crew at Pequot Yacht club and renting little Hobie cats for an hour after work, from Longshore sailing school-for an evening sail…”
Helen’s response to this was to find a day that was: “breezy, but not too breezy. I needed to keep the chances of capsizing to a minimum. Hobie cats aren’t really ‘senior friendly’. They don’t have any rails or a solid bottom. You just have to take your life jacket and go sailing.”  And here’s the result of that!

Ahoy there!

Here’s what Helen, with her usual modesty, concluded from these events: “If you have a little idea, make sure you’re with someone who listens.” And I’d add that she’s stacking up karma for when she needs a hand climbing cannons when she’s 87.
All photos are by Helen Klisser During and she holds the copyright. You can also check out her weekly ArtCafe blog for updates on the local and global art scene. Lots of great ideas there.

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