just a brief journal on old memories

It’s Thanksgiving here in the United States, and I find myself sipping moscato and trying to think of all the Thanksgivings I can remember as a child. Unfortunately, I don’t remember very many Thanksgivings before my mom died almost thirteen years go. That period of my life all feels like a blur sometimes. I’d like to take a little bit of time right now to reflect on one Thanksgiving that I do remember…

We had just moved to California — my dad, my mom, and I — and we were living in my older brother and now sister-in-law’s tiny apartment. I remember my parents slept on the futon in the living room and I slept on a cot of some sort not too far from them. I was only twelve and hadn’t lived with my brother for three years, so it was nice to me, those cozy moments piled together in one place.

I only remember snippets from that day…

One snippet is about how my obsessive compulsive disorder came out in full swing. I don’t remember what I was compulsively doing, but I do remember my mother getting frustrated with me. My compulsions were really bad at that time in my life.

On a happier note, I remember watching television. We didn’t really have a dining room or a table, so we all sat in the living room with our Thanksgiving plates and watched TV. It was right around the release of the second Harry Potter movie, and the three child actors were on Oprah or something… I just remember them talking about Dobby, who must’ve been cutting-edge CGI at the time. Oprah kept saying, “You mean Dobby was just a tennis ball on a stick?” “I mean, what was it like talking to a tennis ball on a stick?” At one point, my mom exclaimed, to the laughter of the rest of us, “We get it! He’s a tennis ball on a stick.”

I’m not sure if it was that day or some time before or afterwards, but we all gathered to watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first movie. I remember running away from the TV and freaking out. I think it was my dad who followed. I kept trying to say that I couldn’t watch that movie, that it was bad, that people from our old church in South Carolina told me it was bad.

My dad (or my mom, or both) told me that it was just a movie, that it wasn’t bad at all, that it was fun and there was no sin in watching it. I am so grateful to my parents for that moment, for their attitudes, for introducing me to a rich and life-changing world.

I am so grateful to them for not forcing religion and rules upon me, for only taking me to church when I asked them to do so. (I remember one kid in my Sunday school class was there as a punishment for something he did the day before). I am so grateful to my parents for showing me that God existed outside of church buildings and that he wasn’t mad at me for “sinning.” I’m grateful to them for challenging the rules I came home from Sunday school spouting — like when they told me love was what really mattered in a relationship, not gender. I love my mom and dad so much.

I was too young to really grasp it then, and I wish (not for the first time) that they were here now to talk to me about my questions, to tell me about their own experiences with faith now that I’m old enough to listen.

I want to watch movies with them. I want them to see their granddaughter’s excitement over reading Harry Potter. I want them to know the incredible man in my life who, coincidentally, is also currently reading Harry Potter for the first time. I want them to glimpse Grey Havens YA, a group that I know they would love. I know it would make them proud.

More than that, I just want to know them. I feel like I hardly knew my mother. Twelve years was too short a time. But then again, twenty-three years was too short a time with my dad, and I want to know him more too. I am thankful for that time, I’m thankful for what I do know, I just wish it could’ve been longer, I wish their could’ve been more.

I miss you, Mom. I miss you, Dad.
I’m thankful that I’m here with my brother and his wife who became my sister, with my two little nieces… but we all miss you.


I want to remember this place, but I don’t.
I am told the memories:
This is where your grandparents lived
This was your house
This is where dad worked
This is where your brother went to school
This was where mom and dad hung out
See that house? That one, there.
I don’t remember any of it.

I feel as if I’m returning to my roots.
I drive down main street Arbutus in the middle of the night
Trying to make out the shapes of the houses in the dark
This was where I became a thought, a fragment,
An ultrasound image in a frame… It all started here.
And I have no memory of this place.

And yet I live here now,
While those who hold the memories have gone on and moved away
To open spaces by the Rocky Mountains
Or mansion rooms by streets of gold.
And I am here to gather the threads of their memories…

My dad loved to be back here, I think, because he liked the good memories of his early times with my mom, before she got sick.

But I have no memories of these places. The majority of the time I had with my mom was spent in South Carolina, and I haven’t been back there in almost five years.

But here is what I do remember:
Walking along the beach with her,
That cramped feeling in my neck after hours of sharks-teeth hunting
The sun rising over the Atlantic
And setting over the Pacific (after we moved)
Laying on our backs in the parking lot of our condo complex,
Studying the sky for one of my school projects.
See that star? That one, there.
That house I remember.
And our townhouse. And the pools.
The surprise party she threw for me.

There are countless other memories I’ve made that she has no part in,
Places I can go to now that remind me of seasons long after she’d gone
Even my memories of her hometown have nothing to do with her
Because I’m making them now, with new people.
I am a new person, or at least I am older now.

I have ten years of memories without her presence.

And yet, she is always present. Evermind.

I’ve blogged about this day before in Simblemyne and White Shores Are Calling.

© Robyn and Chased by Light, 2013. Unauthorized use of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with direction to the original content.