The remembering

My mother’s job is to forget, to bury her memories deep into the folds of her clothes, the wrinkles around her eyes. My job is to unravel them, unwrap those lost memories. I remember my childhood vividly. I know what my mother looked like then, how she acted, how her voice quivered less when she sang. We used to share the same space. I played where she worked on her embroidery. Often, she sang, without introduction, without explanation. She sang and I listened and I never questioned her. It became a tune my ears grew to associate with love and sadness. She sang with love, but there was deep sadness buried underneath, in the lyrics, in her voice. At nights, after my father had left, I slept next to her. I never feared anything on those nights. In the mornings, I wanted to stay in bed even long after she had gotten up to make breakfast. She had a red velvet robe that she wore often, a gift from my father, I think. As a kid, I liked seeing her wear it. She kept it neatly in her little closet and on occasion, when she was away, I’d slip it on.
My mother has forgotten most of her life before the age of 50. She has brief moments of recognition. Sometimes, she’ll hear a certain song and she’ll either smile or ask me to change it. Forgetting and remembering are both skills we all share or lack. My brother and I are both good at remembering our childhoods and the people in them. My mother and sister remember little, and what little they remember is so faint that it might as well not be a memory.
It’s not that I live in the past. My childhood is certainly over and nostalgia is here to linger forever in my dreams and thoughts. But from remembering, I can relate to my family, to people I’ve lost and loved. I can recall how I was, and sometimes it’s easier to understand my current inner conflicts. But for people like my mother, the past has no meaning and there is no point in going back or in nostalgia. In fact, I don’t think my mother is nostalgic. Her wish to have been a singer is not nostalgia, but just a lost dream. She is too practical to let nostalgia in. She may not be a singer, but she has more success at 61 than her teenage years and her teenage dreams.
Forgetting is not an easy thing for me. I am plagued with the desire to write and remember. The losses are piling up in my book of nostalgia, the people, the places, all the things happened then. I am going to remember everything because I am free, like my mother is now.

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