Memories are fleeting. As I create new memories with my children, I find that my memories from childhood are becoming more difficult to summon. This is me trying to preserve them.
Some memories seem more like folk-lore and I really have no way of knowing if they are real or pieces of an old movie that I’ve seen or a book that I’ve read.
I remember being in a room, on the top floor of either a hotel or an apartment. There was a balcony just outside the front door. I think it had to be an apartment because I remember coming from down the hall to hide behind the chair my mother was sitting in. I remember the same hallway though from a house we would live in half a decade later But because, I would read once, years later, that my mother had called the police; that’s my memory. Real or not real. Standing behind my mother’s chair in the front room as men stormed in. Except, I wonder how real it is, because in my memory they are dressed as the Village People. Is it something I actually witnessed but could not make sense of as a child and so created a version that made sense to me?
I have no way of knowing. My mother died this past year and our family history is not recorded except in the memories of those left behind, many of them not shared memories.
My mother, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I will never be so beautiful, I’m not sure anyone every will. It’s what I always remember, good memory or not, is how beautiful she was. Perhaps, it is how we all remember our mothers.
There are memories of the senses. The smell of the green house, one of my childhood homes, the first time we walked through it, before my mother rented it. The green house smell, musky, dank, hot still air.
The sound of the old clock radio all through the nights spent at Dorothy’s house. The radio voice that was present in the wee hours that we stole and the moments when we woke from sleep.
The taste of a warm tomato, sprinkled with salt just out of my mom’s garden, only one of two I remember her having. I was sitting in one of those gardens when I remember her running out of the house. She had just recieved a phone call saying either her dad had just died or was about to.
The sight of my mom and dad carrying a yellow plastic kitchen across the patio from a bedroom window above on Christmas Eve. I still believed in Santa after that.
The taste of coffee cake for the fist time sitting at a table, looking out the window at a lake cross the street. I was 9. I still remember the taste, wishing just once I could taste it again. My attempts a making it have never been successful.
There are awful memories. That’s just want they are and I wish they were not.
Guilty memories. Making it hard to forgive myself, but maybe forgiveness isn’t necessary. I’m learning that as a child, taking care of me, instead of another, was not wrong. Although years of self hate and self doubt make that a hard place to find firm footing.
Angry memories. The sort that are hard to forgive and steal many more moments of happiness from me than exist in anger. That I am letting go one by one. I think I am finished.
And the other tons and tons of memories. The black eye from my cousin Dusty when we played baseball at Easter. Dancing in the kitchen with my mom and sisters at almost every holiday. Laying in the back of the sation wagon with my sisters on trips to Gothenburg. A prisoner named Shorty, who would flood ground squirrel tunnels when we visited on Sundays just so we could watch them run out of the other end. Being baptized the same day as my sisters. Kid meetings. A bed of mashed potatoes covered in a mixture of hamburger, pork and beans, ketchup and mustard that tasted like heaven. A hundred pretend weddings to Bobby Fred in the sloping dining room at Dorothy’s. The first time I held his hand walking to Kipp’s for an ice-cream. And bike rides and fisher fountain, worms at Crazy Dick’s, delivering the tribune on my bike, sitting on the roof much to my mom’s displeasure. My first bedroom at the house my mom found for us when she was better.
Oh, memories. I suppose they could go on and on. My childhood was not ideal and yet in many senses it was extraordinary. I had experiences you could never pay for and that only come once or twice in a lifetime. There are parts that left room for healing. Some of it seems as if it held magic. And it was enough to fill pages and pages with my stories.