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This story offers us some absolutely fantastic descriptions.  I love the image of the young girl holding her fingers up to her eye as a frame so that she might see the world as a painting, her daydreams of a boy she knows best from having touched his wrist in passing on the stairs, her observations of the people on the beach. 


This might be my favorite:  “She wore a bright green bathing suit like a bottle from which she might, I felt, burst in a rage of churning smoke.  I could feel the genie-like rage in her narrowed figure as she seemed both to crawl and to lie still…”


“A Memory” is really about the contrast between a child’s imagination and the reality of the world she must observe.  It’s about a memory rich enough in detail that it intrudes on her imagination, takes up permanent residence there whether she wants it or not.


Having read the stories in A Curtain of Green in order, this one is also interesting to me for the narrative structure.  It’s only the second story in the collection with a first person narrator, and she’s quite different from the other.  “Why I Live at the P.O.” is told from the point of view of a working class adult in a tiny Mississippi town.  It doesn’t leave the sense that a lot of time has passed between the events of the story and the telling of them.


“A Memory,” on the other hand, is told from the point of view of a child from a more privileged class, and it is told by her adult self.  This adult narrator is aware of the shortcomings of her youth. 


She says, “I was at an age when I formed a judgment upon every person and event which came under my eye, although I was easily frightened.”  She tell us this right away, so we know when she thinks the family on the beach is common and when she wishes they would die that these are the judgments she so easily made at that age.

We know she’s outgrown that kind of judgment over time, else she would not be aware of it to make the comment on her child-self.  We know too that this instance of feeling so uncomfortable on the beach probably helped her grow into a more self-aware adult.  It was important not for what happened but for what it taught her about herself.


We can all only hope to be so observant of both our inner and outer worlds.