Place as Memory
Last week I was in the city all day and walked past the Plaza several times. The castle-like crenelations are a familiar landmark in a landscape perpetually reproduced around the world, and unlike many other buildings, the interior is just as familiar. It seems that, more than almost any other building in New York, the Plaza has special meaning for children–just look at Eloise and Home Alone 2.
As I walked past the Plaza, I found myself thinking about place as memory. The Plaza is the site of many physical memories–afternoon tea in the Palm Court; visiting the hotel with my mother, who supervised the redesign of the hotel in the 1980s; walking by as an adult. But there’s also the overlap of memories in the cultural consciousness–Home Alone 2, Eloise, North by Northwest, and so on.
It’s strange to think how a place can hold so much–every person that you’ve been, parts of your life that you hardly remember–and hold that for others, too. After all, the Plaza is a landmark. It holds stories, so many stories, within its walls. It holds memories of my mother–my mother as my mother, and before she was my mother, too. She had been in every single room of the hotel–every attic, every basement, every guest room and kitchen and public space. It’s hard to believe that she’s gone when the hotel is still there–admittedly having been through many iterations since she was there–and her work is immortalized in film.
The Plaza isn’t even the place I would say holds the most, or the most significant memories for me, but it’s the one I was thinking of last week when I walked through the city–the strange combination of public and private memory, of physical and virtual memory.
Have you had that experience, and if so, which place holds those memories for you?