Literacy Journey

I once lived in a place that stocked memories. Now, that place is beyond my reach. If I were still there I would stand in the hallways and recall the things that took place within its walls. The countless holidays, celebrations, conversations. I could hear the laughter and cries contained within those walls. But now I am beyond the stores of memory kept. I must try to remember without seeing the place where things happened. I must first remember that place of memory to remember everything else.
I can recall a portrait on the wall. It hung over the stair-well. A large portrait done in sepia. Two young children stood on either side of a white-picket gate. The white wood was aged and chipped. Leaves in autumnal shades littered the pavement. I can see through the portrait to the time that it was captured. I can remember being unsettled and uneasy. I can remember moving about nervously and the anger in my sister’s face as she waited for me to be settled and for the picture to be over with.
My memory is like that portrait of my twin sister and me, that once resided on a wall in a place I once called home. Although I can no longer see the image with clarity, I can summon the essence of the moment.
Stretching back as far as I can in memory proves difficult. The memory gets tugged this way and that way. Moments of interest draw the mind towards them, chronology becomes less and less apparent. I try to remember a time in my life before I had a standard routine and I cannot recall a thing. I lose any points of reference, any labels of classification. I suppose without having any idea about when or why something may have been it just vanishes from memory altogether. The one thing that I can remember, or at least, I think that I remember, for I’m not sure if it is true memory or a fabrication based off of stories I’ve been told, is and was traumatic.
I cannot recall my age, I cannot recall the season. I’m not certain of the time of day, though it must’ve been the mid afternoon. I can see the memory in my mind’s eye, but something seems off. I see the memory as a snapshot of my own life. I can see the things as they happen in a disembodied sense. I feel as though I’m looking back—bird’s eye—in recollection, although that perspective makes the whole thing seem like a dream. I can remember seeing my sister rush around the halls in the house that’s stocked with memories. I see where hardwood met carpet, where a coffee table base met with its glass top. I can imagine myself tripping and my head making contact with the coffee table’s edge. I don’t remember pain. I don’t remember the glass falling off the table’s base. I don’t remember if my sister cried or ran away. Even now the scar’s so faded that I wonder if it really happened . . .

To try to remember when I first learned to read I’d have to go further in my memory than that. I’m not sure chronologically whether it’d be before or after the aforementioned accident, but it certainly resides deeper in my memory than trauma. I can faintly remember a Ghandi picture book–it was perfectly square with a sort of reddish-pinkish marble-esc print on the outermost pages. I can recall wanting my mother to read it to me nightly. I can recall the hooked on phonics booklets that my grandmother ordered off the television advertisement; the little collected levels of booklets, the competition between me and my sister to see who could complete the level first. I can remember sneaking into my parent’s bedroom where the books from that collection  resided and attempting to read the later levels before I’d advanced to them and thinking that I’d never get there. I’m sure I did eventually, I don’t rememeber though.

But now, here I am. Away from the place where memories are stored. Away from any inkling of what happened all those years ago and in what order they unfolded. I cannot recall exactly how things happened, but I know that at some point they took place for they left clues that even now remain within grasp: the faded scar on my forehead, the picture of me and my sister that resides tucked away somewhere under heaps of blankets and furniture; my ability to read remains, although I don’t remember when words first arranged themselves on the page and invited me to take them in.

 

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2 thoughts on “Literacy Journey

  1. First and foremost: great usage of imagery throughout the piece. You are a skillful writer. Your comment on how you remember the trauma, but you don’t remember the pain made me reflect on my first memory involving pain — where I touched the glass covering of a fireplace and gave all my fingers blisters. Now that I think about it, while the memory is deeply stored in my mind, I don’t actually remember the pain. Like I remember feeling in pain, where that pain was located, what type of pain it was — but I don’t actually remember the pain sensation itself. Curious observation on your part.

    I also enjoy your envisioning your memory as a non-chronological sort of setup, where even if your first memory of reading happened after your first overall memory, it’s still deeper within because it’s not what you first think of. It’s also interesting how you can recollect from a bird’s eye perspective. That’s where the discussion on the reliability of memory and where imagination takes over gets really interesting. For me personally, I can think of my first memory both in terms of first and 3rd person, depending on how I feel like remembering/reconstructing/reinvisioning it.

    As for your reading story, apparently I did something similar as a kid, though I have no memory of it. Only the story my mother shared. Apparently after my first day in Kindergarten, I came home with a book, and I was so excited to read it; but I didn’t know how to read. Somehow I had formed the expectation that just because I went to school, therefore I would be able to read. Funny stuff us kids do.

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  2. I loved your descriptions of your earliest memories, and I come across the same problems when trying to recall so far back. Memories become like vague snapshots that I can’t quite remember, often questioning if I even remember the event at all or only a retelling of it. Memories begin when we start to get an understanding of language, but I wonder when memories begin to change. Like I said, my first memories are just a snapshot – a still life. But later ones, and obviously recent memories, are accompanied with feelings and details and movement. I can remember things happening in a certain order, and how I felt at each moment. It would be interesting to see when that sort of long term memory develops, and why it doesn’t happen right away.

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