Memory


What is she without words? With them she can think, have ideas, be reached. There’s not a thought or fact in the world that can’t be hers. 

The Miracle Worker, William Gibson

I think that's supposed to be a cat. Or a gremlin. Were gremlins furry? Or was that just Furbies?

I think that’s supposed to be a cat. Or a gremlin.

Mommy,

I have this memory:

We’re sitting on my bed, you and me. I’m not sure if it’s day or night, or what you look like. Beautiful, I’m sure. Maybe pregnant, about to bring me and my sister a little brother. In my memory my room sometimes looks white and airy, my bed huge, and a window just above it.

(But sometimes it looks like Michelle Tanner’s bedroom.)

There’s a piece of paper in front of us, and I’ve got a pencil. We’re practicing my letters because I’m about to start kindergarten. You look over my shoulder, and you help me make five letters: E-M-I-L-Y.

We say them out loud as we write, “E-M-I-L-Y.”

I trace over the graphite: E-M-I-L-Y.

E-M-I-L-Y.

E

M

I

L

Y

And then it happens. Suddenly. Subtly. The pencil, still unfamiliar to my hand, forms shaky letters, but they aren’t just letters anymore:

EMILY

They’re my name. It’s my name. It’s me. The word has become me, and I am both at your side and on the page.

EMILY EMILY EMILY EMILY EMILY EMILY EMILY

It is not monumental that I learned to read and write. My race, my nationality, our family’s social status and income would all have ensured that I would one day learn how to decipher those strange symbols we call the alphabet, putting them together to express myself and to communicate.

But I am a woman of words, and this memory has, through the many years and ages since, layered itself with nostalgia and significance, blossoming into more than just a milestone. It is a monument.

And you were there at the start.

picture

Mom, Mama, Mommy, Mother—You gave me life and you gave me love. You gave me your looks. You gave me your strengths and your weaknesses. You gave me creativity. You gave me your overwhelming desire to love people.

You gave me words.

And all the words in existence, in every language on earth and in heaven, will never truly express how thankful I am for you, nor how much I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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3 thoughts on “Memory

  1. This is wonderful. Such a fascinating memory on top of the emotional significance. I have no memory like this, but I wish I had. I have vague memories of learning to write, and of struggling with my complicated middle-name, but such a moment of realization, no.

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