A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Then I saw Simon raise his hands; Noah's hands were already in place—and my Uncle Alfred and my Aunt Martha: they held their ears, too. Even Lydia held her ears in her hands. My grandmother glowered, but she would not raise her hands; she made herself listen, although I could tell it was painful for her to hear it—and that was when I heard it: the children on the high-school athletic fields. They were playing baseball. There were the usual shouts, the occasional arguments, the voices coming all at once; and then the quiet, or almost quiet, was punctuated—as baseball games always are—by the crack of the bat. There it went, a pretty solid-sounding hit, and I watched even the rocklike face of Mr. Meany wince, his fingers close on Owen's shoulders. (3.242)
The sound of a bat hitting a ball is a strong – and loud – reminder of how Tabby died. Even the people who weren't present at the scene of her death are painfully aware of the connection between the sound of the bat and the graveyard scene in front of them.
When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part. (3.249)
Even after you lose someone, the memory of them lingers. Sooner or later, though, certain parts disappear into the past. It seems, however, that John is particularly good at holding onto memories of the past.
The first Christmas following my mother's death was the first Christmas I didn't spend in Sawyer Depot. My grandmother told Aunt Martha and Uncle Alfred that if the family were all together, my mother's absence would be too apparent. If Dan and Grandmother and I were alone in Gravesend, and if the Eastmans were alone in Sawyer Depot, my grandmother argued that we would all miss each other; then, she reasoned, we wouldn't miss my mother so much. (4.1)
Harriet tries to interfere with the family's sad memories by switching up Christmas traditions. If they do everything in a completely new and different way, they won't notice what's missing.