Monday, November 24, 2008

Tom's Diner

I went to university in New York City. Often after an all- night session of club-hopping, we'd stop at Tom's Diner, several blocks from Columbia campus, to eat greasy cheeseburgers, drink chocolate milkshakes, and detox a little.

One particular night (actually, it was about 5 a.m. by then), I was at Tom's with my friends, satisfying our post-alcohol food cravings while the buzz of the booze was wearing off. The diner was full of college kids, calling out to each other, laughing, joking, and having a great time being young and carefree.

I looked around me, soaking in the vibrant, party atmosphere and marveling at how fun it was to be young, alive, and eating cheesy fries after dancing all night. I wondered if I were appreciating it enough. I wondered if I'd remember this moment.

Then I played a little mind game with myself. I closed my eyes and imagined myself in the future as an old lady. I imagine myself saying, "I remember that night at Tom's Diner. I wish I could feel that again. What I'd give to be young again and transported back to that moment."

And POOF! I opened my eyes and I'd gone back in time to my college days and there I was. Suddenly, the lights seemed brighter, the fries tasted tastier, the smiles seemed smilier, everything seemed more intense.

Because I'd consciously forced myself to preserve that moment in my memory files, I can still transport myself to that night and feel, hear, and see what was there.

Ahh... Tom's cheesy fries... I can taste them now...


zorop said...

My sister emailed me the other day from Vancouver (I am in Singapore), and she mentioned that I was a naughty boy when I was 4 to 7 years old. She brought up a case where I was chasing after her with a pair of scissors only to be stopped by my eldest sister who gave me a good whacking. I replied that I coundn't remember.

Now and then my mother and I attend the funerals of some aunts who passed away and there, I meet older relatives who tell me they had once bought me ice cream or had carried me in their arms when I was young. These memories too were lost. I was thinking at least I should remember the ice cream!

I now wonder, had my mother tried to make memories in me, would I have remembered them?

Shin, your emphasis on these "making of memories" in your kids seems quite interesting to me now. I declare I did not consciously make them in me. Not even the good ones. I wonder if there is a study on this topic?

Shin said...


That's an interesting question - whether there have been studies on how people can consciously file away memories and what difference that makes to how well we keep those memories. Maybe some of the psychology types on this blog can say something about that - Kathie? Angel?

I've done this "memory filing" a number of times.

Once, I drove by an empty outdoor parking lot (car park) in the middle of the night after a rain. There were no other cars on the road, no people, no signs of life. This empty lot had tall lamps that cast a misty glow of light on the scene. The entire scene had this mystical quality to it; it was the epitome of calm and stillness. I told myself I had to remember this scene, and more important, how it made me feel, so I stopped and just took it all in.

To this day, I can close my eyes and see that foggy, misty glow and feel the calm solitude I felt on that night. It was a beautiful gift to myself - a gift from the present to the future me.

Ronnie Ng said...

"...What I'd give to be young again and transported back to that moment..."

"...If Josie and Toby disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't want any more children. It's not the idea of motherhood..."


I think I can understand what you meant when you said you didn't want to be a mom for the sake of being a mom, why you just want to be Josie & Toby's mom...

If you had the chance to go back in time, you wouldn't want to waste your time looking for anyone else to be your husband, because you now have the knowledge that Tony is a good husband.

"Suddenly, the lights seemed brighter, the fries tasted tastier, the smiles seemed smilier, everything seemed more intense."

If you had the chance to go back in time, your kids (Josie & Toby) would probably seem cuter, breastfeeding would probably be more tolerable, & your love for them could be more intense... ^^

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng,

Well, I'd definitely appreciate breast-feeding more, mainly because I'd have breasts instead of these silicone things! ; )

Ronnie Ng said...


I read somewhere that “words and sentences are like guitar strings, which you can pick to make music.”

Likewise, I think the moments of our life are like guitar strings. And it's up to you to make catchy, melodic, impressionable music out of these precious moments, such that you won't ever forget them for the rest of your life. : )

writerinresidence said...

Almost everyone I know has a New York moment and invariably, it involves food of some kind. Mine was a picnic in Central Park waiting for free tickets to Othello and eating prociutto, swiss cheese, baguettes and cherry cheese struedel, all from Zabar's!

<*ANGEL*> said...

Here's the two cents worth from this particular psychology type... hahaha.. :P

Well, I think that no matter how we categorize and file memories, we rarely remember them as they really are.

We usually remember them the way we see them, the way we want to remember them, and the way they serve our purpose in remembering them. ; )

Memories are in fact just STORIES that we have that support the beliefs, thoughts and values that we have.

E.g., if we believe we had a bad father most of the time, we remember the "bad father stories", and even though the "good father stories" have gone into our brain as well, they will stay there dormant, until they serve our purpose to remember them. : )

So in Zorop's case, unless it served his belief or a certain purpose to remember the ice creams, this memory would just lie dormant in his mind.

Sometimes also, memories are stored away in the unconscious because they may bring out certain feelings that we do not want to feel or it may remind us of a certain trauma or heartbreak that happened when we were young. Such memories usually return when we have gotten over the trauma or healed the heartbreak. : )

I had a friend who had a bad relationship with her father. All she remembered about her father was how bad he was. But after a few years of healing, going for workshops etc., she started to build a good relationship with her father and see him in a different light. So years later, when she looked back at her life, all she remembered about her dad were the good things that he had done and the happy moments they had together.

So when she talks to relatives she hasn't met in a long while and talks about how great her dad is and all the good things she remembers, they all seem very surprised. ; )

Shui Bien said...

I am from Taiwan.

This song sums up your feelings precisely.

Shui Bien

Shin said...

Shui Bien,

Sorry, I don't understand Chinese. Can you post the lyrics in English?

Sasha said...

Snap Shin! I do exactly the same as you. I call it My Memory Bank and take a mind photo to look back on and remember how I felt. I then make 'withdrawls' from the bank when I am feeling crap and life has thrown me a curve ball.
Sounds almost as cheesy as those fries you had! Hmmmm, now I want a big juicy burger with all the trimmings!
Much love Sasha xxxxx

Lois Ann said...

I have often suggested to young parents to ingest the moments with their children at various ages, so that they can see the passage of time and yet recall those special younger days. You have proven me to be right on. Did I do it with my own kids? I tried. And now I need to take the time to go back to those memories. Wish I'd done more of this intentionally. It makes one's life fuller.

I follow your life regularly and am impressed with how wise you were way back when.

<*ANGEL*> said...


The song posted on You Tube is actually a Chinese classic oldie.

You can find the translation of the lyrics here:

Shin said...

Angel, Shui Bien,

I read the lyrics. Not exactly the feeling I had in mind, actually. Maybe something got lost in translation.

Shui Bien said...

Perhaps that first one was a bit old. This one maybe. : )

Shui Bien

Shin said...

Shui Bien,

Well, I definitely like the music for this one MUCH more!

But this still isn't what I had in mind. Looking back at the past is very common. Everybody does that.

I'm talking about an entirely different perspective - going in the complete opposite direction. That is, feel this moment NOW and throw it forward into the future so that when you catch up to yourself in the future, it will be there waiting for you.

That's not looking back at the past. That's looking forward at the future. You'll always have a past. You won't necessarily have a future. Preserving a moment NOW implies you have hope of having a future. It implies that the moment you're experiencing NOW is worth preserving to savor sometime in the future.

Ronnie Ng said...

Shui Bien,

Think this music video is more like it?


Tinkle said...

Hi Shin ; D

I'm 13 this year & I saw you on MediaCorp's ''In the Face of Death'' and got teary eyes. You're a strong lady & God will bless you. ;D

Your kids are sooo adorable!! Cancer sucks, but life is still wonderful. : )

Anyway, do you have msn?

Shin said...


MSN? Do you mean MSN instant messaging? No, I don't.

zorop said...

Time machine we know is a fantasy like the show "Back to the Future" going back and forth.

Shin, your "throw it forward into the future" is living in the NOW. One can do it. Like a shot from a camera, you need some effort focusing though or, well, autofocus!

Just wondering why Shin didn't use a camera then at that empty outdoor parking lot. Video and sound could be captured too.

Or perhaps only feelings and sentiments can be "mind_morised".

Shin said...


You nailed it. What was important to remember about the scene couldn't be captured on camera - it had to "mind-morized", as you say.

Plus, I didn't own a camera until I had my first baby. I didn't think there was anything worth taking photos of until then.

I even went on safari in Africa without a camera. How stupid was that? On the other hand, while all the others on my truck were busy trying to get the best shots of the wildlife, I was able to sit back and really appreciate what I was looking at.