Malleable Memory

Memory is malleable.

In my short story The Broken Bottle, I refer to Akira Kurosawa’s seminal movie Rashomon, in which each witness to a murder tells a different story of the crime – including the ghost of the victim. While Rashomon paints a scenario in which individuals may or may not be lying to us about their memory, I propose that our own memories lie to us. Often they tell us the stories we want to hear about ourselves. And what we want to hear changes as we move further and further away from the truth of the event. (Of course, “want” may be debatable. But I’ll leave that psychological discussion to another time.)

Johanna, the protagonist of The Broken Bottle says, “It’s as though the young woman I was back on that wet July night stands in the middle of a polygonal mirrored room. Though she is surrounded by the facts of the moment, all she can see are the distorted reflections, refracting through time.”

When I look back on my childhood, which I shared with my sister and my parents and an assortment of friends, family and pets, it’s an ethereal landscape. Sometimes shrouded in dense fog. Periodically illuminated, so that specific places or people stand out so clearly that I can taste the air, smell their perfume, feel the emotions in the pit of my stomach – especially the shock of embarrassment or great hurt or ecstasy. But mostly, everything and everyone in my past are Read More

Porous Memory

The shape and taste on my lips, a poem by Sally Wiener GrottaI sit at a blank screen, knowing it’s time to write. That’s what Daniel would tell me to do with the jumble of emotion, pain, emptiness that has consumed me.

Some years ago, I saw a man attack another with a broken bottle. We were in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a normally high decibel neighborhood, with sidewalk traffic as dense as the streets. Families with scampering children and couples arguing or holding hands and business folk, tourists, conventioneers, and yes, the always present hungry homeless folded in on themselves. Crowds of people walking too fast, or strolling and reading window menus, or juggling large grocery packages festooned with pictographic Chinese words. And somewhere behind the neon signs and fatty aromas, a verve of hidden life, mysterious, almost alien, yet so very familiar.

However, that wasn’t the Chinatown we saw that night. The hour was so late that the tiny corner restaurant we chose was an island of unresolved energies on a nearly darkened street. (Or at least as dark as any street in Chinatown gets.) I saw no pedestrians through the large plate glass windows during our entire meal. Just the incessant rain and the puddling reflections of a sleeping city. While we waited for our check, Daniel went into the men’s room. That’s when it happened. A sudden, vicious eruption of fists and blood, of glass gouging and slashing, unintelligible screams and flung furniture. Read More

Memories & Dreams: Looking Back, Stepping into the Future

Janus by Sally Wiener GrottaMemories and dreams
Life intangible
Life imagined
What we hold
In our minds
In our hearts
As we stand Janus-like
At the cusp of the year.

Life lived back to back
Supportive, protective
Opening ourselves
To beyond the now
Remembering the past
Stepping into the future
To whatever comes
Together.

Poem (c) by Sally Wiener Grotta


How appropriate that the symbol of the new year is Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions and endings, of time past and to come. We imagine that he will stand at once more at the stroke of midnight as 2013 ends and 2014 begins, with one face gazing into what has come before, while the other focuses, dreamy eyed, onto the future.

Looking back on the past twelve months of our lives, the view is so very different from what it was as we experienced it. Sally likes to say that the defining aspect of our personal and professional world is creative chaos. She has that right. Every morning we’re awaken by Watson, our Golden Retriever, to a new adventure, never knowing what will happen that day, or how much of our ever-growing ToDo list will get done. At night, as we fall into our bed, we are certain that we got very little done.

Yet, as we gaze Janus-like at 2013, we are surprised at all that has happened in the long run, as we simply did our best to live each day fully. Here are some of the highlights of 2013 in the Wiener Grotta household.

OUR HERO

One of our proudest moments of the year was when our Dad, Noel J. Wiener, was honored for his service in WWII, as the last remaining officer of SHAEFheadquarters. That was General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Europe.Read More