{July 25, 2012}   Memories

When people hear my stories, they often ask me how I survived my family to become the mother of a well-adjusted child. My answer is—because I have a good memory.  Now, I may not remember who wrote the book I’m reading right now, and sometimes I can’t even remember the title. But I always remember, in detail, what happens to me. And I have found that that is the most common trait that writers share.

Memory is a slippery thing, especially when you’re a child. In fact, when I ask most people, “What is your earliest memory?” they have this glazed stare before they answer, “I don’t remember anything before I was six.”  It always amazes me when I hear that response because my earliest memory goes back to age two, and I remember episodes of my two-year life as clearly as if it just happened. I remember the style and color of our  house on North Avenue and how we moved to another house when I was three. I remember the child neighbor’s names that I played with. I remember my first Halloween and I remember waking up crying with a stomach ache and refusing to take Milk of Magnesia. I remember escaping from the house at early dawn when I was a toddler to search the outside trashcan for a doll I believed my mother had thrown away. My last memory of seeing the North Avenue house was being in the backseat of the car beside clothes in a hanging bag, and hearing my mother say, “wave goodbye to the house” and sadly waving goodbye.

Having a good memory is both a curse and a blessing. I often relive the horror of being beaten because I made too much noise while playing and interrupted Mother’s nap. I remember the shame of going to school with bruises on my legs from beatings and trying to divert other children’s attention away from them by making them laugh. These are the curses. But that’s not the whole story of my childhood. I remember waking up on a spring morning beneath an open window, feeling a breeze floating over me and thinking–how free I am! It was the spring before kindergarten started and I knew soon I would have to start school. But that morning, I experienced a perfect happiness, made even more meaningful because I knew it wouldn’t last for much longer. But, I was wrong about that. Because my memory of that spring morning is so vivid, I’ve been able to return to that moment over and over, throughout my life. And that is the blessing.


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