What's Not Remembered
For years, Sebel wouldn't take the slide out.
It sat in a box on the top shelf in the coat closet, while the kids' art projects and laptops and other things of the past piled around it. Sebel actually forgot the slide was there until she was cleaning out the closet. She roped the kids into helping her one rainy afternoon.
She bopped Christopher on the side of the head and his thick goggles went dim.
"Mom!" he cried. He pulled off one of his motion mittens. "I was right in the middle of a raid!"
Sebel put a hand on her hip. "What did I tell you an hour ago?"
Christopher groaned and pulled the goggles off his face. "Only four more credits," he sighed. "But Roger and Wade's moms let them use fifteen credits a day on video games."
Sebel tapped the screen on the wall. Fifty more credits for the day. Enough to keep the lights on until 10, cook dinner, watch a movie, maybe do the laundry. "Roger's dad a tax broker. If they're not fudging their energy credit reports then I'll eat my hat."
Sebel waved her hand dismissively. "Never mind. Are you going to help me with this closet or not?"
Christopher pulled the gloves and goggles off and put them in the cabinet. "Why doesn't Claire have to help?"
"Oh, she does." Sebel raised an eyebrow at her daughter, reading a book across the room. For a minute, Claire tired to pretend she hadn't heard her mother. Then, when it became evident Sebel wasn't giving up, Claire sighed dramatically and rose from the couch.
It took them hours just to go through the first layer of stuff - old coats that no longer fit anyone, wireless earbuds from the 2040s, shoe boxes full of photo drives. There was the bottom of a blender, long broken but never discarded. There was a stack of books - pregnancy guides from years ago, money management paperbacks, a how-to on getting the most out of your vertical garden.
Sebel was glad she had the kids with her. When she had someone to share the past with, it didn't lay so heavy on her back. Claire clomped around in Sebel's old pair of wedges - people really used to wear these - while Christopher found Sebel's old iPhone.
"I don't know why anyone wouldn't just wear their phone," he said, pointing to the black strap on his wrist. "What if you forgot it somewhere?"
Sebel chuckled. "Well, sometimes you did."
Christopher turned it over in his hand. "This thing probably took forever to solar charge."
Sebel was about to correct him when a thunk came from the closet. Sebel and Christopher peered in to find Claire standing on one foot with an ancient cardboard box in her hands.
"I didn't drop it," she said. Claire set down the box and pried open the top flaps. "Woah, look at all the memory slides. Mom, how long have these been up here?"
Sebel peered over her daughter's shoulder at the blue sticks, which magic marker on masking tape wrapped around the handles as labels. "Wow, look at all these."
As soon as she saw them, Sebel's mouth went dry.
Christopher picked one out of the box at random. "Claire's first recital," he read. He pressed down and held on the button on top of the stick.
Sebel held up her hand. "Wait."
But the memory had already started.
The stage of Young Stars Dance Academy materialized before them. The thick red curtains filled Sebel's vision. The heat of the stage lights pressed down on her forehead. The musty smell of the theater and of the feint sweat wafting off the person sitting next to her filled up her nostrils. She'd forgotten that part. The mumbles of parents whispering to each other filled her ears. It was Sebel's point of view, so they watched the memory from the cushioned seat that was hard as wood and was making Sebel's butt ache. She'd forgotten that part too. The music chirped on overhead and a tiny Claire rushed on stage with the other dancers, all decked in bright, poofy, indigo dresses.
Sebel smiled. Claire was so young then and laughed at everything.
"Look it's Dad."
Sebel turned to the memory's left and there he was, her Vince. He was clapping in time with the music. Sebel had made fun of him for that - who claps in time to a ballet concert - and he had laughed and held her hand.
"Memory stop," Sebel said.
"Hey, we were just about to see Claire fall," Christopher said.
"Why don't we put them away?" Sebel said.
Claire reached her arm into the box. "Why? We haven't seen these in forever." She pulled out one that said "Beach 2039" and pressed down.
The smell of salt air filled their nostrils. Claire and Cristopher were running through the waves in their swim suites, their blond baby hair filled with salt and sand. The memory was focused on the kids, on the seagulls calling overhead, on the sand underfoot. But Sebel could feel the achy burns on her shoulders and legs. She hadn't remembered until now how badly she'd been sunburned, how miserable she was on the trip. Then Vince's creamy voice came from out-of-sight: Beautiful isn't it?
"Memory stop." Sebel stood up. "I'm going to take a nap. You both have fun." She lay down on her bed and stared at a wall until the rain stopped.
Later, after dinner, after the kids had retreated to their bedrooms, Sebel returned to the box of memory slides. She reached way into the bottom, past the birthday parties and the wooded hikes, to the one she hadn't wanted to see.
For a long time, she sat there, with her thumb on the button. Her pointer finger stroked the masking tape, which said only "Anniversary: September 24, 2041." All those beautiful things he'd said. It was as if he'd known the next week everything would change.
Sebel took her finger off the button and shoved the memory slide far down into the box. When she finally fell asleep that night, she dreamed of Vince's creamy voice telling her wonderful, kind things, and she smiled, even though she couldn't remember exactly what he'd said.