33. What To Remember, What To Forget


When we are children, we live without thinking too much about it. When we’re happy we live like little squirrels dashing from tree to tree, from moment to moment, and a lot of what happens to us, the regular everyday things, we don’t really notice. Human beings can only remember things we have actually noticed, good or bad. I remember being embarrassed and ashamed of my old hand-me-down clothes. I remember being told I was too skinny, and I would never be pretty. I was thirteen. Things like that, I remember.

There are blank spaces that I don’t remember in the last days I was still with my birthmother Ann. I don’t remember seeing her in that boarded-up old house where we lived after the divorce happened. Daddy went somewhere and we went to the old house. I don’t know how long we lived there. I do remember being sad a lot, alone in the cold dark dusty empty house, sitting in front of the tiny gas heater that was the only heat we had. It was winter and the cold seeped through the boarded windows, over the windowsills, and flowed into the room like water. 

I don’t remember the rest of the house except the kitchen. There wasn’t any food in the fridge, so I went to the big Safeway and stole something to eat. I don’t remember where my brother or my birthmother slept, and I can’t remember seeing either of them there. They must have been there, but I can’t remember. In my mind’s eye I try to see them there, and I can’t. 

Then Daddy came one day and found me and took me out of there, and Helen brought me home to her place. They got married and legally claimed my brother and me, and then a whole different life began, and I remember millions of things about that. Things we did, clothes Helen sewed for me, all the different things she taught me– how to cook great things like homemade biscuits from scratch. I can remember every corner of the warm bright house, so full of happy optimism and generous love and lots of food. Oh, wonderful food. I’m crying now. I remember what a marvelous thing it was, suddenly to be warm, and to have my tummy feel so good and full.

Writing this memoir I’ve often wondered about how memory works, why we remember what we remember and forget what we forget. Some good things are forgotten because they seemed ordinary at the time, but wonderful and awful things take root in the mind and stay. What makes us remember things is feeling them. I know that sometimes the mind chooses to hide them from us to protect us from pain, but the dark stuff is still in there, someplace deep. 

Now that I’m grown, sometimes I’m brave enough to open the vault and let a thing come out into the light, and I write about it. It hurts so much that I cry and cry. But once I have written it, and faced it, and confessed that it’s true, I find that I am able to forgive it, and then I feel so much better, and not afraid of it anymore. I feel whole, like I know the wound can heal now.


The trilogy, Victory Is My Name, Book 1: The Burning Barrel is available from Internet or brick and mortar bookshops. The e-book is available at your favorite web booksellers. Search by author, Victoria Chames.

If you are interested in being a Beta Readers for Book Two: The West Bank, please contact me through “Victory” at Darkhorse Press. The first draft of Book 2: The West Bank is now in progress. Thank you.

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