GOOD NIGHT, IRENE
by David Sisler
It was one of those memories that spring to mind for no apparent reason. I was lured in by a newspaper article entitled, "Twins are making money on the Internet." My twin sons, Michael and Matthew, frequently surf the Net, so it was a natural attraction. Jason and Matthew Olim, the story said, have an Internet business which sells compact disks. They are doing about $3 million annually and hope to break into the black soon.
My unrequested recollection was triggered by the statement: "Music is pre-sold. You want Hootie and the Blowfish because you've seen the video." Hootie and the Blowfish (for the uninitiated, and that includes yours truly) won this year's Grammy for best new artist, and pop group vocal performance for the song "Let Her Cry." I have no idea. I had to ask.
The name of this ensemble triggered a remembrance of Miss Irene Lowell Kirkeby, late of Boston ("Home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots and the Cabots speak only to God" -- thus saith Ogden Nash). Miss Kirkeby was the head of the French Language Department at FSU when I was an undergraduate there (that's Frostburg State University, not that other school). Actually, Miss Kirkeby was the French language department.
Well, before I married Miss Bonnie Belle Carter and began rooming with her, my roommate was one Robert Michael Norris, of Severna Park, Maryland, a French major. Bob frequently recounted "Kirkebys" -- amusing anecdotes generated by the venerable professor, unbeknownst to the venerable professor -- to the great amusement of all who heard them. Miss Kirkeby, never heard them. She would no doubt have remarked, as Queen Victoria is alleged to have responded when an off-color story was recounted to her, "We are not amused."
Miss Kirkeby was the stereotypical befuddled academician, completely involved in her subject and totally oblivious to everything else. One day she expounded, in a voice that sounded like equal parts of Bette Davis, John Kennedy, and Clint Eastwood, about a new song she had, alas, heard on the radio. Remember these were days when Guglielmo Marconi was a pup, eight-track was a glimmer on the musical reproductive horizon, and a CD was something you bought at the bank.
"Class," she said, "today I heard the most positively vulgar song. It was called, (say it flat, not the way presidential candidate Richard Nixon did on "Laugh-In," and make the "S" almost an "SH") ‘Sock It To Me (pause) Baby!'"
I read the article about the enterprising twins and wondered what Miss Kirkeby would have thought about -- get the Davis-Kennedy-Eastwood voice right -- "Hootie and the (pause) Blowfish."
Memory is a strange thing. It can be triggered by almost anything. Those little neurons begin to spark and ganglia get excited and the next thing you know, you are thinking about college professors long departed.
Or you set bolt-upright in bed, your pajamas drenched in sweat, your breath coming in short, painful gasps and your heart is beating so fast that if it had wings it would fly out of your chest. The terror of the night fades quickly and under oath you could not recall what frightened you, let alone unearth the memory which provoked it.
Someone walks by and you catch a faint aroma of perfume, or the breeze suddenly shifts and the fragrance of spring flowers caresses your face. You smile as you remember... what?
As the darkness of Friday became the dawn of Saturday you could have smelled the dank, fetid odor of despair. Saturday became Sunday but the only difference anyone could tell was that it was no longer Saturday. Then the odor of a familiar perfume drifted up through the open window. Eleven men looked at each other with instant recognition -- that smells like the perfume which Mary had poured on Jesus, what was it, a week ago? Could it have been only that long?
"She has done it in preparation for my burial," Jesus had said. "Wherever the Gospel is preached, from now on people will remember her because of the extravagance of her love-gift to me."
Judas had calculated quickly: "That perfume cost an entire year's salary. We could have sold it and fed the poor, but she has broken the bottle and wasted it!"
Love never reaches for the calculator, but greed and hatred always do. With despair the eleven surviving disciples would have remembered that.
Then the sweet perfume became stronger and Mary burst through the door, the scent of spikenard from the Himalayas filling the upper room. The aroma of all of that perfume still saturated her clothes and clung to her hands and sweetened her hair.
"He is alive!" she shouted. "I went to finish the burial preparations, but the grave was empty. Jesus has risen from the grave, just like he said he would!"
And then they remembered.
And then they believed.
And now you have remembered.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 4/6/96
Copyright 1996 by David Sisler
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