Wednesday, May 27, 2015

550,000: An Absolutely True Story with Four Disappointments for the Reader Along the Way

This story starts with 550,000, the high score on the pinball machine I inherited from my father.

Beyond the memories we have of those who have passed away, we also have physical tokens of their existence. Photographs of those no longer alive are no doubt the most common (although if a photograph only exists in digital media and never printed, you could say it's not a true physical item). But we also have their handiwork, such as the ceramic matzoh plate my father made in the early 90s that looks like a sheet of matzoh: 

To me, some of the most emotionally resonant tokens are things that had been handwritten by the deceased, mainly due to the uniqueness of handwriting that has the immediacy of "This was written by the person who no longer with us, in their own hand, holding a pen or pencil." One example that I have is a label on a large thermos, identifiable as being from the 70s with the orange floral pattern decorating it. It has a large white push button on the top to dispense its contents. It is the type of thermos you find on folding tables at something like a PTA event, used to provide coffee. In fact, on the label is "Decaf Coffee" is written in my mother's handwriting, a precise narrow slanted mix of cursive and block letters that far excels the quality of my handwriting. And I'm going to disappoint you in not showing a picture of the label with my mother's handwriting as I can't find the thermos, somehow misplaced in the move we made four years ago. (Disappointment #1)