Mom’s Place, Part II

I was not quite ten years old when my mother died. She was forty-two, and her death stole almost all of my childhood memories:  the knowledge of her as a mother and individual,  my past experiences as her daughter, and  my relationships with the family during those young years. Only two solitary sparks remain. There’s nothing else to grab onto, nothing to build upon, merely those sparks at the edge of my recall.

It’s summertime. I’m five years old and wearing a white, short-sleeve cotton blouse and dark blue shorts. My mother is at my side in a small curtained off cubicle at The Emergency Hospital, a freestanding health care facility on Main Street in Bridgeport, CT.

I had been bitten by a neighbor’s German Shepherd. As I stand on a shiny metal examining table, I feel her arms around me while the doctor swabs out the bite on my right thigh. End spark one.

Spark two reminds me that my mother did her own gentler form of swabbing when she cleaned me up after I fell down some concrete stairs and scraped my back.

It’s summertime. I’m seven or eight years old, and standing on a chair in my friend Carole’s kitchen. She too is standing on a chair. Our two mothers are dabbing at our scratches with clear water. Carole and I had tumbled off her front porch and landed hard on the sidewalk. End spark two.

That’s it. The ability to remember the first part of my life, that part anchored by the pivotal role of Mother, had vanished. Or, more likely, it’s

stored as irretrievable bits of data scattered willy-nilly on my brain’s hard disk – a child’s strategy to hide the unbearable. It seemed to work.

Yet, if I had been able to hold on, to carve out a special “Mom’s Place” in my brain as I believe my brother had, I’d been able to say during that younger time, “My mother told me . . .”

Later, when I began, again, to mull over the earlier me, I yearned to unzip my young mind, <Find> those memories, and click on <Save>.

These days, I no longer torture my recall. The few memories I do have, however, I revisit frequently, and once a year on Yom Kippur, I light a candle in my mother’s name along with all the others I have loved and lost. I recite the prayers and I whisper the year’s happenings to each. But I add to my mother’s list, year after year, the same thing: I remember your hands holding on to me, touching me gently, pouring cool water over my scrapes, and soothing me, loving me.


See Mom’s Place, Part I, 6/01/2010

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Editor: Edwin C. Goldstein