Tag Archives: memories

A Personal War (in pieces) 

10 Mar

I’m not usually a novelty coffee mug person but I saw this when I was running errands last Friday night.

 

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It’s a blue bunny (like my bunny girl, Otis), I say “hop to it” frequently to kid and coparent, and the glasses and bowtie reminded me of something, but that memory glubglubbed just below the surface…a few days later I learned an old friend had passed…

And I realized that was who this mug was bringing to the surface.  The memories followed and I was in that high school hallway again and Mr. Fleck was telling him I would be missing the end of my senior year, specifically finals. He told him it was because I was sick and would be in the hospital. Mr. Pryor cried. He cried, for me. I had not cried yet, because I had not been alone and safe enough and so much was unknown. But he cried. His compassion and his empathy for the process I was just beginning is an overwhelming, emotional memory. I am in the bookstore on Greenwich Avenue, a year and a half later, after I have crashed and burned through Kubler-Ross, picked my self up with M. Scott Peck, and dusted myself off with nourishing Bernie Siegel.  He is happy to see me. I had been feeling rather ineffective and invisible and was teetering on the edge of a full blown existential crisis. I joke with him about putting barbed wire around the literature section and asking seekers of lit a few questions to determine if I would bestow upon them the precious volumes or if I would provide the corresponding Cliff Notes (it was summertime and even parents would come in to purchase the school required summer reading for their kids and most of them opted for the Cliff Notes over the full books). The next week another adored teacher from school came in. After that,  I would see both of them, frequently, as they always stopped in to say hello.

After a year and a half of working at the bookstore, living at home, and indulging in a motley assortment of night courses at SUNY Purchase, I lept from the nest a second time and headed to Boston intending to pursue a degree and training in cinematography & camerawork.

Septic shock took me out of this body and mind a few months later, and when I was out of the coma and done with surgery, I learned to sit up, stand, and walk again. I learned to sit up and hold things in my hand. I held a spoon. A pencil. My Filofax.

My Filofax.

For me the organizer was a diligent effort toward a resolution for the new year,  to stop storing the details of college and work, all cluttered, in my brain. The black rubbery cover held my only memories, and as it was a newly started calendar and address book(it was only 2.5 weeks into January) it contained little.  I didn’t recognize any names, but I started making phone calls because I was on a metric shit-ton of IV morphine. (Looking back, if I had not opened those pages and started dialing, out of a super-stoned, toddlerish curiosity, my son would not exist today, as his dad was under the C tab, and I was going alphabetically  (but that is another story to share later).)

Some things, some people, were absent from my organizer, and ceased to exist in my sunshiny, spotless world.

Mr. Pryor. Mr. Vaught. Dr. Pavlica. Mr. Montgomery. Ms. Becker.

Until a friend told me of Dr. Pavlica’s passing. And then a few years later, with the magic of Facebook, the memory of Mont was returned, alive and well and exploring Greece with his wife. Then Mr. Vaught passed last year and that news returned him, to me.

Then this week, when I sipped my tea from my bowtied, spectacled blue bunny mug and read on Facebook that Mr. Pryor had passed away.

 
Mr. Pryor.

 
And there I was, near the start of this post, in the hallway, seeing my teacher, who I would call friend, crying for me and my broken pancreas.

 

That is the raw, shitty deal of amnesia.

I’d be more ok with not recalling the texture of my desk,  and the phenolic odor of lab tables with hints of metal chair feet scraped against linoleum , the temperature of the air, the light through the tree shaded windows of the first floor science room, the smell of pencil shavings and warm, freshly exfoliated eraser crumbs, the temperature and the sound as my hand squorsquishes into a forgotten apple in my overloaded backpack.

I could lose that stuff and not mind.

I do not feel as generous about losing whole people.

I am not comfortable with misplacing entire friends, formative experiences, or the multisensory snapshots of spaces in which my life happened.

The endless gift of amnesia is that memories are reconnected and returned erratically and surprisingly. Even the memories rife with terror and pain have value now. Focusing on the return of objective memories is almost like fleshing out a visual, spatial, olfactory timeline and I permit myself to only dive far enough in – as though a bungee tether has me anchored in the present day- to view objective details enough that the Swamp of Sadness (that took took Artu and nearly swallowed Atreyu in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story)  cannot drag me into the sulking, sucking, stinking, deadly muck. This is a hard-earned, and worthy, skill to master, as every recall hides an abundance of pressure switches.

I have learned that even the terrifying, painful, and heartbreakingly sad memories are treasures when they are returned to me, and not because I love me some psychological torture and relish the PTSD experience, but because I’ve weathered enough in 41 years to spot the tiniest speck of glitter in a fetid heap of the ripest rot. And each wee sparkle fans out dendrites, bringing other memories closer.

I realized, a couple of weeks ago, that I don’t need many of these memories (reminds me of Harry’s rant about Auld Lang Syne in “When Harry Met Sally…”

Harry [about Auld Lang Syne]:   What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?

Sally:    Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.)

I don’t need them.

If I can’t remember them, I can only miss the idea of them (again, from “When Harry Met Sally…”:  Harry Burns: Maybe I only miss the *idea* of Helen… No, I miss the whole Helen.) but these content-less hunts of time, occassionally spotted with foggy islands of indeterminate terrain and potentially combative or predatory or friendly fauna hidden by strangling vines, stinging nettle, poison ivy, and heady, delicate gardenia, hold importance to me and that curiosity is not decreased by my lust for information and tireless enthusiasm for connecting ideas.

I recognize my miss-filed memories are important, to me, but I newly recognize that I cannot mourn their absence.  I am developing a more organic appreciation that most keepers of standard-issue (non-autistic, non-synesthetic) brains, who have not weathered two neurologically symptomatic endocrine tumors, do not remember every environmental, sensory, qualitative detail the way I do.

So I can relax now and not chomp at the bit quite so hard when it comes to the reclamation of every moment, every detail, every memory.

I am learning to curate my mind, my memories, my world while carefully maintaining integrity and feeding my hunger for personal objectivity through truth, facts.

It is through this (still very intentional, deliberate) curating and objectivity that I’m learning to express the more subjective and more primal parts of me (how I was trained to ignore those things is another story, for another time).

 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Pryor, and thank you. I’m sorry I misplaced you for so long and missed our friendship. You are remembered for your compassion, kindness, and your delightful wit and biting sarcasm. I’m glad I found you again.

xo,

 

Rebecca I. M.

Oma’s Matzo Ball Soup!

9 Nov

P.S. on the Matzo thing…(my apologies for my wacky punctuation and grammar… I’m hiding right now. I don’t know why I can’t hide and use proper grammar, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it….)

 

Here, have a picture that has maybe just a wee bit to do with the rest of this post… It’s Alex (a very little Alex as I was holding him up while this picture was being taken and I haven’t been able to do that for a long long long time) and me at Oktoberfest here in Cape Coral at the German-American Social Club.  Only in the south would you find this wooden picture thing with the cleavage this covered up!  The hat is Alex’s.  It’s his first traditional German wool hat.  We try to add a pin to it every year, but we did not go to Oktoberfest this year due to scheduling and me being so damn sick.  I did find a little charm that says “Kunzelsau” which is where my grandparents lived and where I used to visit them when they were alive.  I found it on ebay and I have it in my pile of stuff to fix and make… I’m going to modify it into a small pin for his hat.  He does need a bigger hat now, but as it’s so hot here, I think we’ll just keep decorating the one he’s had since he was 2….

 

The recipe I started out with was this one:  Oma’s Fabulous Matzo Ball Soup.  I chose this one because I had nearly all of the ingredients and the “Oma” in the title gave me the warm fuzzies.  My mom is from Germany and Alex calls her “Oma” (my dad is Popi pronounced “pop E”… My mom claims she never spelled it this way.  Every time we see them we have the “Pope I” or “Pope Eye” discussion. Every. Single. Time.  I called my dad’s dad “Popi” when I was growing up and it is spelled “Popi” in the funny little captions my mom put in all of my baby albums.)… I called her parents “Oma and Opa” and my dad’s dad (my grandmother died the year before I was born) “Popi”.  So anyway.  The word Oma gives me warm fuzzies and makes me remember some of the foods my Oma made for me during summer visits to her house on the Kocher river in Kunzelsau, Germany.  She never made Matzo ball soup.  But she did make tasty treats like Pflaum kuchen served with Kartofle Suppe (potato soup)… Please don’t mind my spelling… I’m blogging in secret right now as if kiddo discovers I’m out of the shower I’m going to be his captive video game audience before I make him some dinner.    Oooh and she would make baked apples for my grandfather and a pitcher of cool vanilla sauce to drizzle over them.  She would give me a glass of the vanilla sauce to drink (it was like a thick but not frothy vanilla shake…and not too cold.. perfection)… Summer was one of the few times I was allowed to have such sweets and treats…. Ok… I’ll post how I modified the recipe in a little bit…  I’m also baking a cake tonight as a surprise for a belated 70th birthday for my dad, 8th birthday for Alex, and 36th birthday for me.  We haven’t been together as a family, with me feeling up to baking anything, in the past few months, so I figured that I’d make a baked cake inspired by icebox cake (Dad’s favorite)…  Ok. Off and running!

 

xo

Bek

Sweet face and an empty space

28 Jan

At 7.5 Alex finally lost his very first tooth lost naturally.  Does that make sense?  He had one pulled a long long time ago and has a spacer and now he lost one of his lower front teeth.  He was both elated and disgusted by the sensory aspects of the experience and as he was sleeping in my room he suggested that we leave the tooth in the kitchen for the Toothfairy as she is “THE” Toothfairy and would know where to look.   Love his logic!

Here’s my baby boy:

I was just thrilled he finally lost one as on the morning of the day that he announced his tooth was loose I was telling his Dad that we need to make another dentist appointment for him and I was worried that he hadn’t yet started losing his baby teeth.  I lost my first one at a restaurant in Provincetown, MA at age 5.  It fell out in a bowl of rice and my mom cut apart each piece of rice to try to find it.  Baby teeth really are tiny and somewhat rice like.

The second tooth, that I lost, happened in school.  I was in Miss Kelly’s class:

(I’m in the back row, third from the right…Blond with bangs)…

We were having show and tell and I brought in these nifty German handpuppets- I believe one was a fox and the other was a bunny.  I still have them- they are those stuffed creatures with the little button/earring -Steiff makes them…

Anyway, I did not like having attention paid to me by the whole class at once.  The idea scared the daylights out of me then and now.  It’s probably good that I veered away from teaching after a rocky start in my studies.

So my tooth came out right before I was supposed to go on.  I didn’t want to call attention to my predicament so I went on as scheduled and pretended to do voices for my puppets (which isn’t really something I ever had done as I wasn’t big on making them have conversations aloud). Mumbly voices- one high pitched and one lower.

I can’t remember what I made them say but I do remember feeling relieved when my time was up and we headed out of the building to the playground.  The playground had a jumpy bridge- planks of wood connected by chain that rattled and bounced when a kid would jump on it.  The jumpy bridge was always my first hurdle on the playground.  If I could stand in the middle and jump a couple of times then I could definitely stand at the top of the fire pole intending to slide down but never doing it because aside from the swings, I was not a fan of having nothing under my feet for even a brief moment.  I remember that I would smell my hands after grabbing the pole so hard that my palms were a shock of white and reddish pink.  The smell was metallic and to this day when I smell that watery metallic smell I’m right back there at the top of the pole, not feeling defeated because I knew I would try again the next day.

The little slide was wet so I turned around and went back over the bouncy bridge.  I stopped in the middle and jumped and gulp.

I swallowed and as I swallowed I remembered that I still was concealing that little tooth in my mouth and down it went.

I thought I was going to barf.  I worried that there would be a scene if I did and then the janitor would come and sprinkle that weird Pepto Bismol pinkish dust on my embarrassing puddle of barf and tooth.  I always thought that the Pepto Bismol would have helped more if they gave it to kids before they barfed but now I know it’s not really Pepto Bismol, but it was that weird pink.  That weird Pepto Bismol meets 1980’s ceramic bathroom fixture mauve-y pink.  It’s also the color of the upholstery on the exam tables in many OB/GYN offices. Not that I have been to enough to really extrapolate with any accuracy.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the offices I have been to, and pretty much everywhere I have been that medically deals with human vaginae, hospitals, offices, etc…, prefers that color.

Anyway.

Oh the tooth.

So I freaked a little.  I was very upset about the tooth and my face, normally a vibrant pink blush, had taken on such pallor that the teacher did send me to the nurse.

I didn’t confess anything to her.  I liked her. She was a good school nurse, very kind and a good listener. I was the weird kid so I spent some time in her office at least once a week. Not because I was sickly or anything, I was just strange and preferred talking to adults if I had the choice.

I did confess to my mother.  I was upset that because I had not swallowed by pride but I had swallowed my tooth.  I had this dreadful sense that The Toothfairy would not be making a stop at our home in the woods because there was no tooth under a pillow to beckon her.   I thought putting the tooth under my pillow was kind of like the Batman Signal being activated.  No tooth, no signal, no toothfairy money or little five piece pack of Trident.

So I wrote a letter, hoping it would help.  I even included my phone number in case she needed directions or had to send someone else for this particular unusual case.  I was hoping that she could accommodate me and the tooth that was somewhere in my guts, hopefully avoiding my appendix.  I had just reread the Madeline book where she gets her appendix out and I was a bit concerned.

You can tell how truly upset I was because my spelling was abysmal.  I was reading at an adult level at age 5 and my spelling was pretty good thanks to the Stephen King that I was reading (that no child should ever read).

Here’s my letter:

and here is a self portrait.  Rainbow dress and high heels at 5 years old…  I think that style wise I was the opposite of me now.  Now I’m all about jeans, black v-neck, charcoal grey hooded sweater/cardigan/fleece… Don’t worry, I’m my own best customer and I almost always have some fantastic glowing piece of my art on me somewhere.  But here’s how I saw me in first grade:

Bright colors and all girly and smiling huge.  Clearly this was before the 2nd grade destruction of self-esteem.  But we’ll get to that another time.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of the tooth of my youth.

If you have a funny loose tooth memory please share in the comments or blog and post a link in the comments here!

Happy Weekend!

Oh and there are a couple of new pieces up in my shop just clickety click here!

XO

Bek

 

Glass Butterflies and adoption….

6 Feb

Glass Butterfly for Sarah’s Wedding….Originally uploaded by CleverGirlBek None of my formatting is holding… Off to explore a fix for it… But here’s my post anyway….   I made this piece for my little sister, who is getting married (eloping! woohoo!) this weekend… This piece, and Sarah (my sister) mean so much to me for so many reasons…. Some of you know that I am, or was, an only child for 30 years…. Some of you know that I was also adopted into my family at 3 weeks old…Two years ago, just before Christmas, I got an email that started something like “I think I may be the person you have been looking for”… A couple of weeks later I received a sweet card from another woman I had never met that was supposed to arrive, I think, before that startling email but because I forgot to change my address on that one online registry, it took the scenic route…They found me. My birthmom, Julie, and my little sister, Sarah. They found me.After a near match with a possible biological father and his sister (that proved heartbreaking all around, it wasn’t a match but I still occasional email with my not-really-my-aunt but still so wonderful) I finally just let my desire to find a biological relative cool off…. I figured that it wasn’t meant to be… Arizona (where I was born in 1975) and NY (where the adoption was finalized and where I was raised) have rules on searching and records and releasing even non-identifying information that excluded me completely from receiving even pleasantries from either state agency…. The adoption lawyer, Stanley Michelman, has long since left law but had been working on cataloging all of the old files and promised to keep in touch…I just let everything go. I lost hope, but not in a hanging my head low sort of a way…I really let go and moved on without another thought…. For the first time in 30 years I didn’t totally lose my marbles on my birthday. Ok I didn’t celebrate either, but I wasn’t a complete mess like I had been every year since I was a kid and it dawned on my, on that day, that someone that I didn’t know might be thinking of me, someone that I didn’t know might have blanked me out of there mind, someone that I didn’t know might just not care, and that someone that I didn’t know carried me around with them for 9 months and just gave me away- and from the story that I knew, of my adoption, they kept me for 3 weeks and then still decided to give me away. While I know the true story now, and learning it has been a long, intense healing process for all of us involved, it’s really hard having that one day a year and not wanting to get out of bed, and having nobody (at least nobody I knew pre-wide spread internet use) else who could understand….So they found me. Not only was there one person who thought about me on my birthday, she thought about me more than that… In fact, I quickly learned, I have four siblings that were all raised knowing that they had a big sister out there in the world somewhere.Imagine wishing every year, as a child, that Santa would bring you a sibling and then 30 years later, after abandoning that wish, you get a Christmas card from a sister you didn’t know you had. Yeah. Intense. Between the email from my biomom, and the many emails that have followed, and the letter she sent in a Christmas care package and my sister Sarah’s card and letter I was a mess. I was a happy mess, but I couldn’t stop crying long enough to say a single word. The decision my birthmom made to give me up when she was 17 years old did change our lives forever. I was always told, when I took my parents for granted, which all kids do, “Imagine if ‘she’ kept you, what your life would be like”…. But there was no imagining with me- I never imagined any of it. I was a creative and imaginative kid, but I never let my brain go there. It’s probably the one thing in my life where I have never said “what if….” and maybe that was a saving grace at times….The decision my birthmom made to find me (she searched for so long and then boom, one night, there was my information…we were so accidentally close at times- she worked in the same company as my parent’s next door neighbor who adopted twins around that time so my mom and I were discussing the whole adoption thing with that neighbor while in the next state my birthmom was working away and wondering….) was perhaps more life changing. The loose ends have been tied up. The questions have been answered. My heart and soul have healed so much. Being given up at birth by your mother is known in adoption as “the primal wound”. That primal wound will always be a part of me, but it is more of a scar these days….Slowly fading and sinking into the skin….And I have siblings.Sarah, who is the oldest of their family, and I are very close…. She came to visit last year and it wasn’t weird or awkward like everyone assumed it would be. There was this calmness, this familiarity, this connection…. Like you have with your oldest friends- you know the ones, you lose touch for awhile, life goes on, and then somehow, someway you reconnect down the line and it’s like not a day has passed, except there are some new tales to tell…. Anyway, Sarah is getting married this weekend….Her/our grandma passed away a few years ago and she and Julie still talk about her and still have a hard time with her passing- understandably so, from what I have heard she was an amazing woman…. She collected glass and crystal for years and loved butterflies…. Sarah mentioned a few times that she wanted to incorporate butterflies somewhere in her wedding….When Sarah was visiting us here in Florida awhile back we went for a nice slow drive through this local nature preserve…. We got out of the car to take pictures and a single, beautiful monarch butterfly followed us around. It felt like the past, and Sarah’s grandma, was saying that everything was good. And it was….It is good.  There are hard days and moments still, but it is so much easier to weather them with so much love around me.   So I made this piece for Sarah….She should be getting it today, before they leave on their drive to the Smokey Mountains for their wedding weekend… Sarah and Greg are doing their wedding in a way that is a perfect match for them- surrounded by peace and quiet and nature and soft sounds…. I am so proud of her and can’t wait to meet Greg in person (although he and Jeff look and act so much alike it’s kind of crazy sometimes)….So this is a vintage, glass butterfly…The theme and material borrowed from the memory of her/our grandma…. Set in sterling silver, by me…..With love…. A connection to the past brought to current times….Congrats little sister! I am forever in awe of you.

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