Legacy: Weeding the Memory Garden

I’m going to have something really exciting for you tomorrow. Today, all I have is this. I sat down this morning and began to put together something really fun for “Tenor Tuesday,” but tomorrow will have to be Tenor Wednesday, because today I am looking at pictures. And really it all started last night.

Ever since Shutterfly started giving out free photo books, my family has been right there to scoop them up. We have yet to actually pay for one (other than the shipping, and some extra pages here and there), but we love them. In fact, we have one for every season. Yes, we make 4 free books per year, and today they are having another free book giveaway with the code SPRINGONIT. They are not paying me to write this or anything, but in case you wanted to make your own book, you have until midnight. So anyway, there I am last night, ready to begin our latest physical manifestation of visual memory, when I notice what season we are up to. Fall 2015.

The fall of 2015 was, I think I can say unequivocally, the worst season of my life. At least so far. I am still feeling the carried over stress of those three months, both physically and emotionally. That time took a huge toll on my family, and we have not yet finished trying to pull ourselves back out of it. As I started flipping through pictures, the memories came flooding back, tears started dripping onto the keyboard, and I finally gave up and went to bed. Not to sleep, obviously, because all of those images of all of those bad times came to bed with me. Pictures of my son looking not quite right. Pictures of us trying to enjoy ourselves, but being unable to. Forced smiles, pinched faces. And lots and lots of pictures of the hospital. Why was I making a photo book of this? Why the hell would I ever want to remember this time in my life?

After a series of false starts and nightmares, I did finally get some sleep and came downstairs this morning to write a fun music post for you, and of course to finish the photo book. I had two choices; I could tell the truth, or I could lie. I could put down every painful memory onto the pages of something I would look at for the rest of my life, or I could put down only the good parts and leave out the pain. And there were good parts! We had so many fun times in between the madness. We took a trip to visit Bleric and Bat in Maryland! My sister-in-law got married! We saw some cool shows! We did fun things! But surrounding those fun things was a cloud of darkness that we can still see on the horizon, ready to return if the wind shifts. And I can’t look at all of those pictures without seeing the cloud as well, even over the sunbeams.

The third option, I suppose, would be to just not make a book for the fall. We could skip right to winter, but sometimes things are even more conspicuous by their absence. And so much of it boils down to legacy. What are we leaving behind, for our children and ourselves? The human brain has a wonderful way of weeding its own memory garden, so that we don’t have to dwell on the pain all the time. Sometimes it blocks out memories completely. Would my children be happier if the fall were just erased? Would they be healthier? Or would they be incomplete? What if I told a half-truth, and acknowledged the pain while trying to put a positive spin on it? Would that be better? I anticipate having these books until the end, like my grandfather’s wheels and trays of slides, enjoying them as I age, and leaving them for my children to pore over when I die, and toss most but the favorites. Does it make a difference if my adult children do not find a “Fall 2015” book? Will they have forgotten most of this time in their lives? Should I dredge it back up for them again in the future? And do I really get to control memory?

Perhaps I have less power than I think over the minds of my family and myself. Perhaps we will all remember what we want to remember. Or time will dull the edge of the blade and today’s open wound will be only a future scar. I don’t know. All I know is that I have until midnight to create something that will sit on my shelf for the next several decades, and what it says is entirely up to me. Now all I have to do is stop crying and start creating. Starting with a really exciting music post. For tomorrow.

Posted in Memory, Parenting, Sadness.

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