I’ve been thinking quite alot about my mother lately. We’ve just passed her birthday, and, for some reason, I’ve missed her more this year. It might well be because of losing the baby. I would love for my parents to have met their granddaughter, and with her death, I just wanted my mother there to tell me what to do next. That pain has led, I’m guessing, to the sharper pain I’ve felt this year about my mother. My brother-of-choice says I raised her and she raised me. There’s no better way to put it. We were allies and enemies, friends and strangers. She was violently abusive when I was a child, but I loved her completely. I still do. Just not in a way that can be expressed to her.
My best friend and I were talking about good memories Friday night. Those little memories of fun things you do with your family when you’re a child. Those memories are precious; when we fixate on the negative stuff, thinking about even a small happy memory can rescue us from the past, at least in my experience. My best memory is very simple. It’s from a time before my sister was born and before my parents divorced. I was probably about aged four.
My brother had gone to school that morning, and I’m guessing my father was at work. It was just my mother and me. She was in the kitchen, and I was playing in another room. She called me in, lifted me up on to the kitchen counter and pointed out a little brown bunny in our back yard. I asked if we could have it for keeps, and she explained that it was our bunny to watch from the window. A very simple memory, but very special to me. At that one time, we connected as mother and child.
There were, I know, other memories like that in my childhood. Still, something about that memory has stuck with me. I can still hear the excitement in her voice and feel her arms around me. At that one moment, I felt safe. It didn’t hurt, as well, that I got to tell my brother about it. He was in school and having great adventures without me, you know. But this was my moment to share with my mother and no one else. I treasure it more than any possession I’ll ever own.
That memory got me thinking about something very odd– I am the only person alive who remembers it. In fact, I’m the only person alive who holds any of the memories from my childhood, good and bad. That makes the memories feel like rare pearls. I feel like I need to be the one who chronicles our family history. The one thing I’ve told my therapist time and again is that I feel the need to write out my story. Now I know why. It isn’t just my story. It’s the story of my parents and siblings, as well. It’s the story they can’t tell. If I don’t remember it and chronicle it in some way, those stories will remain unwritten. And they are far too precious to be tucked away in the dusty corners of one person’s mind.
Over the years, I’ve ‘introduced’ my relatives to the special people in my life as best I can. My brother-of-choice and I knew each other via email whilst my sister was still alive, but he never got to meet her. Still, I think it’s safe to say he feels very close to her. They seem to have an understanding, even though they never met. Only two people in my life now have actually met my sister, and they are 5000 miles away. My best friend did meet both of my parents, but there’s so much about them he didn’t know. They died just three years after he and I met. No one in my life now ever met my brother.
So, I feel like the Great Chronicler. The one person who can keep their memories from fading in to oblivion. It is a responsibility that, until Friday night, I never knew I had taken on. I hold the memories of these people– good and bad– in my mind. They can’t express themselves, and I can’t truly introduce them to anyone in my life. I *can,* however, tell their stories and keep their memories alive. I just have to figure out how to do that.