Lord knows what incommunicable small terrors infants go through, unknown to all. We disregard them, we say they forget because they have not the words to make us remember. . . By the time they learn to speak they have forgotten the details of their complaints, and so we never know. They forget so quickly we say, because we cannot contemplate the fact that they never forget.
We tend to think of memories as monuments we once forged and may find intact beneath the weedy growth of years. But, in a real sense, memories are tied to and describe the present. Formed in an idiosyncratic way when they happened, they’re also true to the moment of recall, including how you feel, all you’ve experienced, and new values, passions, and vulnerability. One never steps into the same stream of consciousness twice.
The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.
But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.
Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.
In all that belongs to man you cannot find a greater wonder than memory. What a treasury of all things! What a record! What a journal of all! As if provident Nature, because she would have man circumspect, had furnished him with an account-book, to carry always with him. Yet it neither burdens nor takes up room.