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remember

Family, Guest Posts, healing, loss

How I Choose To Remember

June 30, 2015

By Nikki Grey

My mother’s hand shook as she set the black velvet jewelry box on my lap. I knew she was trying to seem excited to give it to me, which was true of course, but she also was attempting to hide the fear in her eyes with the smile on her face.

I opened the box and saw the golden heart-shaped locket. An intricate carving of a mockingbird decorated its face along with a long stem of flowers. I knew the significance of this special gift. I knew she was going to die soon.

This necklace would soon be all I would have left of my mom.

I wore the locket around my neck day and night, even in the shower, for weeks before the day came when my foster mother pulled me aside and told me to go upstairs with her. Right away, I knew something was wrong. My foster mother never asked me to come to her room, even if I was in trouble. Besides, the look in her eyes was not one of contempt— the way she usually looked at us if she were upset, or just in general really, like every time any of us spoke. She never did like any of her foster kids much. But today my foster mother looked less cold and distant than usual. She appeared old and somber. I felt small and young. I was 13.

Immediately I knew what my foster mother was going to tell me. My golden locket clung to my chest, seemingly heavier than before. With its weight my real heart sank, too, because I knew.

I knew as I glanced at my foster sister. She knew, too. I knew as I climbed the staircase up to my foster mother’s room. I knew as I sat on her bed and she put her arms around me. The gesture broke my resolve and I started to cry.

My foster father was also in the room. He sat on the bed with us. I sat waiting between them, two people who hardly knew me and definitely didn’t like me. I held my breath and blinked back a few tears. Then my foster mother delivered the news.

“She’s gone.”

I saw it coming. I’d known for months. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t really know. I didn’t know my body would shake uncontrollably. I didn’t know I would let these strangers try to comfort me. I didn’t know I would feel so alone. I clutched my golden locket in my hand and held on tight. I didn’t want to let go.

That was my final memory of my mother. It wasn’t a memory of her really, as much as it was my experience of her death. Now all that’s left are memories. The problem is that sometimes I’m not sure I really knew my mother all that well. I saw her as beautiful and fun, but who was she to everyone else? My mother was a drug addict to my older sister when we were growing up; Mom always let her down. To my younger brother she was just a compilation of stories and brief memories of being held as a child; he was only 10 when she died. Her parents viewed her differently from her friends, different from her kids. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Anonymous, courage, Guest Posts, healing

There Are The Things I Remember.

February 26, 2015

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TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or rape which may be triggering to survivors.

 

By Anonymous.

“I felt as if I were already redefining it, already dropping (ahead? behind?) into a state of retrospection.  I was worried that my memory wouldn’t do me any favours; that it would only make things worse… A constant tug of war: wanting to remember, wanting to forget… How was this journey, this movement to be mapped?”

– Emily Rapp, The Still Point of the Turning World                                    

 

Memory can be a tricky thing.  Our genetic makeup is clever; if something happens to us and we aren’t strong enough to remember, our mind and body has mechanisms to make that memory go away or to minimize the damage of the memory’s daily impact.

I never forgot being raped.  I had memories of it, but I pushed them away until they didn’t bother coming around anymore.  But my secrets were impacting my insides deeply, and then the memories came back daily on their own, knocking, seeking acknowledgement.

Continue Reading…

Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Travels

How Long Before We Feel That Alive Again?

July 21, 2012

               Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.

                                                            – Margaret Lee Runbeck

 

                        We are what suns and winds and waters make us. ~ Landor

Suzhou, China. I went to China with the NYU Scholar’s Program I was in.

The flight back from China and I am so close to Hui I feel his breath on my neck. Over the engine, over all the cranky people folded into seats too small for their rice-filled bodies I almost don’t hear him tell me his secret:

Always smile, Never worry.

But when his hot breath settles on my left cheek, I understand what he is saying-

A potion for your stomach, for your chi

through that yellow smile of his.

He presses a small bottle of Hui’s Chi Liquid into my palm.

I have a lot of poison in my body he can tell this just by looking at me, he says.

I am seduced by people like him: Clairvoyants.

Hui, what’s going to happen to me?

His shoulder pressed into mine and I don’t mind. I like Hui.

I am safe up here in the sky with my smiling clairvoyant.

He is thin, a slip of a thing, and I wonder if large numbers of people spend their entire lives crammed on boats, earning their living moving goods and people over the lakes does that mean that Hui and I can survive up here in the sky in this airtight cabin?  Forever?

Coasting over clouds, viewing everything from such a height that nothing seems so bad anymore.

We would be so far removed from it all. Our perspective would change accordingly.

We had ridden together on the houseboats in Suzhou as old women pushed water out of their way, the geography of their bodies as various as that of their land: dense and vital to the earth.

Those women understood the interaction between a natural environment and human patterns; they have broken the code.

They know who they are, what they must do.

They will not be broken.

What has made me?

Which materials am I built from?

Have I been broken?

Hui and I had sat on the boat shivering, slapped by the January air. A kind of cold you can never prepare for.

The personality of the cold there on the Suzhou River strong willed and ancient.

Upon returning to New York we will have a new understanding of temperaments, of tenacity.

It was that kind of cold.

The kind to teach us lessons, to trigger our memories when we are feeling slack and numb to the world- the kind of cold to wake us from sleep and remind us what it means to be alive and sliding down a river in China on a dark and dreary dinghy.

Trace decay hypothesis is where information in the long term memories decays with time. This will not happen in our minds!

Our fate is sealed! The cold has entered us!

Whether we will remember it isn’t the question.

It’s: how long before we remember it again?

How long before we will feel that alive again?

 

In Shanghai. Me on the end.

**This piece was originally written when I was about 21 years old.

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