Devotion, the new memoir by Dani Shapiro, is divided into 102 sections. Number 54 is one of my favorites. In it, Dani writes about two subjects that have intrigued me for some time.

The first one not surprisingly has to do with memory. She writes:

“Why do we remember the particular things we do? …why random, ordinary moments?”

So many moments from my past, I feel as if I can actually see: sitting in French class in third grade with my French name (which I can’t remember) written on a piece of construction paper and folded tent-style on my desk, sneaking out of a window at the Latin Convention, what I wore to the Cat Stevens concert in ninth grade.

And then there are all those forgotten moments. Someone recently mentioned a Rita Coolidge/Kris Kristofferson concert I apparently attended.

The second subject is related to the first yet strikes off in its own direction. It has to do with what Mary Gordon calls “the wick,” what Tim O’Brien describes as “a blade tracing loops on ice,” and what Virginia Woolf writes about in this passage from Mrs. Dalloway. It’s the russian doll aspect of life–that I am in fact now, still, the little girl that sat in that desk with the French name. It’s the through line Dani writes about here:

“I understood feeling like a completely different person…and when I thought back to my teenage self, my twenty-something self, I had a hard time understanding how I had gotten from there to here…Was there–surely there must be–a through line connecting the disparate parts of ourselves?…I knew that each part of me…is linked one to the next, like a fragile chain of paper dolls….These layers of ourselves are always there, waiting for the right moment to emerge…A jumble, perhaps, but nothing is ever missing. Just hidden from view.”

In this section Dani wonders what rises to the surface and why. I wonder about that too. This idea of the surface fascinates me. One of the reasons I love writing is that it pushes all these things to the surface.