On the Snowbanks of Memory

This afternoon, gazing through the windows of my Georgia home as Mother Nature graced the landscape of my front yard with a steady flurry of snow, my mind traveled back to my childhood in Brooklyn. No surprise really. I’d spent much of today gathering notes for two workshops I’ll be giving at the Atlanta Writers Conference in May: one on Writing As Healing; the other, Marketing the Memoir. Memoir, memoir, memoir. I remember having a consultation about my memoir manuscript with one of my favorite authors, Patricia Hampl, when I was at Bread Loaf years ago. She urged me to go home and write about happy memories of my father. ‘Couldn’t do it, and frankly, ‘didn’t even want to try. I’d survived my childhood by focusing on the positive experiences, and that’s a good thing. But it had outlived its usefulness. John Banville wrote: “The past beats inside me like a second heart.” Well, at that point in my life the heart of my current life and the heart of my past had survived a collision course creating a heartbreak known as PTSD and as a result I was on a single-hearted mission. Unable to tolerate another day of keeping the secrets; of not telling, I needed to tell the world and I needed to do it within a structure that made sense to me. Here the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu are appropriate to share with you, especially if you’re an abuse survivor: “If I tuck my secrets and my stories away in shame or fear or silence, then I am bound by my victimhood and my trauma…When we tell the truth about our hurt and our loss we lessen the power it has over us…When we name the hurt, just as when we tell the story, we are in the process of reclaiming our dignity and building something new from the wreckage of what we lost.”

This afternoon, thinking back to the snow days of my childhood in Brooklyn, I remembered sleigh riding in Prospect Park; carrying the new flying saucer I got for Christmas up to Adele’s Club on the corner of Third Street and Prospect Park West; snow ball fights with by brothers and sister and friends; the happiness of returning home to hot chocolate; drying our boots in the vestibule and hats and gloves on the radiator; and even sitting on the window seat in the kitchen, telling my mother about all the fun we had. These are, totally and completely, happy memories; there’s not a sad one in the bunch. Even mother is sober, attentive and animated in my memories of snow days.

Now, as I ready for bed, I notice that most of the snow outside my window has melted or has been washed away by rain. No matter. I’m thankful for the peacefulness of this day and for the blessings of snow-covered memories.

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