Sometimes a memory, long since forgotten, will choose to emerge and when it presents itself you have to decide what to do with that memory. I suppose you can try to bury it deep inside, try to send it back to where it came from. You can cling to it and incorporate it into your life. You can let it control you or you can attempt to make peace with it.
I have tried to bury many memories but there are always more waiting just below the surface for their chance to escape. I’ve clung to many a memory and I’ve tried to rid myself of many more. I’ve found the worst of them simply need to be remembered. They need to be acknowledged and only then will they blend into the fabric of your life and become a part of that which makes you whole.
Some are too painful to find complete peace with. I’ve tried. In my quest for closure I realized a memory itself is sometimes more than what it appears to be. We only focus on a small part of it, the part that hurts or brings us fear, but every memory has something that came before and something that came after. Every memory has little pieces buried within it that can change your perception of it.
The memory will always be, we cannot change what has already come to pass, but acceptance can be found if you take the remembrance apart like a puzzle and examine each little piece as if it were a memory of its own. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at what you find.
An old memory recently came to call, a quite unwelcome visitor. Instead of going through the tiring and pointless process of trying to push it back into the depths of me, I decided to find a place within me where it could finally be laid to rest. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get past the pain, but I examined it and began to find little details I hadn’t noticed before. Those details led me to an unexpected place.
I found a blessing in that awful memory. I realized my life was changed by that moment in time in more ways than I’d ever known. It was the details I sought out that derailed the way it usually unfurled itself. My past experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve always known that. What I didn’t know was just how much the hidden pieces of them had changed me and altered the course I would take in life.
When I was a little girl we had the most beautiful couch. It was velvety to the touch and colored like silken sands glistening in the sun on a far away island beach. It’s cushions where soft and welcoming. I loved that couch. I loved everything about it, especially the space in the corner where it met the wall; it was like a secret entrance. It was big enough for me and my baby sister to crawl into and find comfort and safety when the bad things happened.
I kept a few of my books hidden there, my favorites. Sometimes I would read them and pretend I was part of the stories. I would sail away on a magical boat or soar through the sky until I found a rainbow to land on. I would take my little sister on whispered adventures through mystical forests of fantasy. I traveled many miles and met many people during my journeys. Sometimes though, I would press my books tightly to my ears so I couldn’t hear the violent storm my mother was caught up in. Sometimes my tears stained the pages, sometimes the pages dried my tears.
I would hold my precious books close to me and pray the bad things would stop. I would hold them closer still when it was over and my mother would fall to the couch, staining the velvety fabric with crimson drops of life and crystalline tears sorrow. Sometimes I crawled out and cried with her and other times I stayed still and quiet so she wouldn’t see I was crying too.
We walked out the door one day and left the couch and everything else behind. My favorite books were forgotten, left to lay behind the soft, sand colored couch. I longed for them, for they had been my armor for so long and I feared without them I couldn’t be strong if I needed to be. A day soon came when it was safe to go back to the house with the sand colored couch and I reclaimed my books.
When I re-examine the couch of my memory now, it is different from the one my innocence had imagined. The velvety fabric faded, the softness replaced with wear. The cushions were flattened, their comfort long since used up. It was the color of carpet when boots have been tracked in on a rainy day. It was a nice enough couch; it just wasn’t the couch my young mind had made it to be.
The small space in the corner where the couch met the wall was barely big enough for one to squeeze into, but it had been a fortress for two. I know now the protection I thought it provided us was more of a longing than a reality. I don’t know what happened to the sand colored couch after we walked out that door for the last time.
I don’t know what happened to my favorite books. One by one they must have been left behind and lost as the years of my childhood quickly passed. I hope they were found and treasured by another and I pray my tears are the only ones that ever fell to soak into their pages.
My books, like that couch, where a part of my past that provided both protection and solace for me. The couch has become a symbol, a reminder not everything is always how it seems to be. Maybe it’s why I always see beauty in the brambles. Those books, my first books, the ones my mother used to teach me to read, somehow took me on one last journey with them, one which led me into the future.
I became a part of those stories and they will always be a part of me. I was given a moments peace in the midst of chaos because someone once sat down and penned simple words to a page, never knowing they would one day shield a little girl from the absolute pain of her world, even if it was just for a moment in time.
I honor and cherish those who carried me away on their quill when I had nowhere I could run to. They were my best friends when I had none. The poets and the storytellers who filled page after page with pieces of themselves were my heroes. They will always be my heroes. They gently held my hand and waltzed with me as I put pen to paper and began my own dance with words.
The pain of that memory and many more like it still linger, but they don’t have the hold on me they once did. I took what I thought represented nothing but sorrow and anger and fear in my life and I pulled something worthy out of it. I know God was with us there in the little corner behind the soft, sand colored couch. He gave me what I needed to get to where I am and I will forever praise him for that gift.
Crystal R. Cook