My oldest memory is an episode I am not entirely sure happened. Nevertheless, I often revisit the moment. At thirty-two I replay the scene both for comfort and to enjoy the images of my childhood. The pictures appear in Polaroid-quality. The characters move in their cloud of Technicolor. To hear the voices I must listen carefully in hopes of capturing everyone speak, even if I only hear my own low-tone Spanish voice. Although it is all a far cry from the high-definition America I live in, I treasure my past – I believe in memories.
Perhaps I favor my first nostalgic imprint above others because it is old, or because it has proven reliable. Sometimes I feel guilty of not knowing whether the first one actually took place, but really what does it matter? I have thought of researching it, even if it means interrogating it or pressuring it into a corner. But to question my memory is like questioning a friend. I am therefore left with one option, to treasure it, to believe in memories.
I have thought to ask my mother. However, I can never do so because she is its protagonist. My recollection concludes with my mother lying to me. I remember the disappointment of catching my mother in her sincerest betrayal of her ideals. I knew then that she justified the lie in order to help me get rid of the hiccups. Her practical side disappointed me. I still remember her proud face, convinced that her mothering skills were in fact blooming. In her mind, she had proven more powerful than a four year-old; more clever than an involuntary bodily function.
The memory is lodged in my head. When I need an escape I don’t sink into an electronic database, or a blog in my head; I walk slowly to a card catalog of memories and I peruse them, even the embarrassing ones. Then I try to share them because talking about them is being me. I get to be a little of who I am inside to the great outside world. I get to be a little of me in my adopted English language.
I share my memories because however small, they make me bigger and proud, and human. I am reminded that I carry those episodes for a reason when I can give them a new home, a new imagination to live in. When I tell my stories I know that I have demonstrated to my students that memories are as valuable as the ideas recorded in celebrated books, that they must first find a way to value their own lives before they can appreciate the great poets. I want them to recall their infantile memories and to work their way to the present, because memories are the fiber of our existence, and this I believe.
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