How a Memory Changes over Time

SOL #26

Hosted by Two Writing Teachers
Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

When I was 12 years old, about 6 months after my dad died, my mother and aunt went to Texas to look for a new place to live…for my aunt.  I was left at my grandmother’s with various cousins visiting throughout the 3 week period.  My sister was 19 and away at college.  I felt abandoned.  There aren’t too many unpleasant childhood memories I hold on to, but this one just won’t leave.

Maybe it was my age.  Moving into the teen years – feeling an awkward pre-teen.  Maybe it was the fact that I just lost my dad.  Should my mom have “left” me so soon after?  Didn’t I need her to stay and give me that feeling of protection a mother should after such a traumatic event?

My grandmother was already heading toward senility.  She said strange things at times.  Embarrassed me in front of perfect strangers.  Still, each day we walked to the local store, then to the park to feed the geese, and then back home again.  It was our routine.  Because she got up each day at 4:00 am. it was time to take a nap when we returned home from our walk.  I loved her big bed.  It reminded me of the Princess and the Pea.  I felt like I had to get a ladder to get up in to that bed.  We napped together.

Each morning I would head into the kitchen straight from bed.  Why the kitchen, you ask?  The floor was heated!  It felt so good on my toes.  We made breakfast together.  I can still smell the pancakes and taste the muffins. We ate outside at the picnic table my grandpa made.  I think he “made” the entire back yard where we sat.  He was a farmer.  He had a beautiful garden with huge willow trees. We lay on the hammock underneath.

My cousins came almost every day to visit.

My mom called every day.  She hated Texas.  She said she missed me and couldn’t wait to come home.

As I sit here and write this slice I realize that this “traumatic’ event wasn’t nearly as bad as I remember it.  I think I’ve perpetuated it over the years and made it much worse than it actually was.  My mind has extended the trip to 3 weeks.  In reality it was only 5 days!

By dissecting those 5 days I see how loved and protected I was with my grandmother, in the house that my grandfather built, where my cousins came and went with their husbands and children, on the heated floor, eating warm muffins, outside in the hammock, in the Princess in the Pea bed.

I know now that my mom had to go to Texas.  My aunt and uncle were divorcing.  She had to leave town quickly.  As an adult I know how hard it is to help one person while leaving the other on their own – even if temporarily.

It’s time to forgive my mom for this trip.  She was doing what she had to do for  her sister.  She did the opposite of abandon me.  She left me in the loving care of my grandmother and extended family.  I was perfectly fine.

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13 thoughts on “How a Memory Changes over Time

  1. Amazing how our minds alter stories to meet our own reality. It sounds like it was a really, really hard time in your life. Right after my dad died (and I was in my early thirties) I wanted to know where my mom was all the time (and I lived 2000 miles away). I didn’t want her to travel or do anything the least bit risky. I just wanted to know she was safe because I didn’t want anyone else to die. It’s great that you have been able to use writing to come to grips with this story. Will you let your mom read it?

  2. Wow…the power of words is evident in your writing! Your journey of discovery was aided without a therapist but through your own process of deep digging. You are so fortunate that you are able to see the compassion and appreciation you experienced that came with staying with your grandma. Beautiful post.

  3. Oh Carrie, I love this slice for so many reasons that I cannot even begin to express…

    As always, your words have the power to sweep me away. I was there…taking the journey with you and grandma…. as you walked to the local store each morning, fed the geese, napped in the “Princess and the Pea” bed, made muffins and pancakes in the kitchen. I could visualize the beautiful garden and weeping willows…. I was there, feeling safe and loved…..

    But, more importantly, I was able to feel your sense of abandonment..(and burden being lifted) as it slowly dissolved into understanding and forgiveness over time.
    While you never speak of it, I know the strength the courage it took to get to where you are today. Forgiveness isn’t always easy……but it’s liberating:-)

    Sometimes, I feel as though I have two child-hood lives. The childhood I perceived then, (sometimes frightened and sad) and the one I perceive now, understanding the healing power of forgiveness. I love how you are able to capture all of that that so powerfully in this piece.

    Souls connecting to other souls…..you do that so well!! I agree with Patricia, YOU ARE A WRITER!!!

  4. I love how you write about as an adult you understand what your mother was doing. I look back at many things and finally understand it. This was such an inspirational piece. I love how you added that it is time to forgive your mom for this trip.

  5. Your writing is very descriptive. I was right there with you as you described this slice of your young life. I am glad you were able to take it out and examine it. Thank you for also sharing the revelation and understanding that came from your writing about this memory.

  6. This is such a great model for all writers — we puzzle things through in writing. We don’t know where we’re going to end up when we begin, but the journey is so illuminating.

  7. Sigh. This is so good AGAIN. While I was reading, I was thinking “Well that doesn’t sound so bad.” And then you hit me with that 8th paragraph – the one that begins with “By dissecting those 5 days…” and I almost stood up and clapped for you!! Because I felt validated as a reader for thinking what I was thinking and because that paragraph is so expertly and beautifully written! Please share this piece with someone. Anyone who will listen. 🙂

  8. Carrie, I really liked your post yesterday. You really captured a relationship in your writing. But today… today, you have done so much more. I feel like it was bold to write about something like this because you had to change your mind about the memory as you wrote about it. You also had to change the reader’s mind. Your mom was doing what she had to do, right? You were left in good hands. Maybe you did need your mom during those five days just as much as your aunt needed her. I guess she felt that you were completely safe with your grandma. I’m not sure how parents make those difficult decisions but really seemed to find a way to write about it – your feelings of abandonment, your mom’s possible struggle about what to do and who to be there for, and then the way you made sense of it all as an adult looking back. This is a very powerful piece of writing. Thanks for sharing your story.

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