We are often encouraged to live in the moment. Of the things we enjoy about our interactions with other people, fleeting exchanges are sometimes very special. They may be verbal. For example, a family group or set of close friends gets into a conversation and in no time it has veered off into a set of whimsical exchanges, with each person adding a little silliness and the group ending up rolling around. Sometimes, those who are part of the group cannot latch on fast enough to what is going on and get lost or left out. If we are sensitive, we notice and draw a line under the wit and repartee, and try to draw back into the proceedings whoever was heading adrift.
The moment may also be some chance encounter between people meeting for the first time, made special due to peculiar circumstances. During the first week of the 2011 US Open tennis tournament, I did a good amount of people watching. During one afternoon, I saw two women standing outside one of the ladies rooms, one poised with a pair of scissors about to perform surgery on the slacks of her friend. It was a hot day, and clearly one lady had come unprepared for the heat–straight from the office, perhaps. What else to do but cut down the slacks. Within minutes, Capri pants were on show. The two friends then joked about what to do with the remnants of the pants, suggesting that they could be useful to protect bare arms from sunburn. That’s a moment the pair may never have again. To help me remember, I took a few photographs of them as they performed their tasks.
During another afternoon of watching tennis, many were seeking the few spots of shade in the general seating. Those who had shaded seats already tried to guard them with every ruse possible. One couple clearly wanted to move to a shadier spot and kept on eyeing a pair of seats, and talking about what to do if they became available. Then the seats were freed up, but the couple then dithered about what to do. Too late. Another couple of seat aspirants jumped at the chance. All that plotting, and no action. Almost everyone else in the area smiled at each other as if to say “What gives with these people?” None of us knew each other, yet we struck up a common chord with a few exchanges of our eyes.
What is often frustrating about such events is that they are alive for the moment when they occur, and are difficult to recreate or retell or share with anything like the feeling that might have existed at the time. They had a certain spontaneity and the triggers worked then, but may be unusable again. We try to capture moments visually with cameras, or we use a device that can record sounds, or we take notes to perhaps help retell what happened, but our memories are often all we can use to keep a record of events.
I suspect that yesterday, as many reflected back to the horrific events of September 11, 2001, they tried to use whatever they had to remember some personal encounters with families, close friends or some chance encounters, but found that all they had were memories of moments. Some say that we are conditioned to hold onto bad memories to prevent us from repeating regrettable actions. But, the moments that evoke good memories are there to be cherished.
Let’s hear it for long and good memories of moments to cherish.