Moving through the quiet morning light where her daughters slept in the small, winter-chilled living room, my grandmother reached toward the radiator for a pair of child’s socks. Lifting the blankets, she slid them, freshly-warmed, over tiny waiting feet. The warmth began its gradual climb from leg to knee to belly and chest, settling over the still-sleeping child in a tangible, heat-infused expression of her mother’s love.
My own mother’s voice captures and holds these images, the textures and the quiet intensity of this ritual. The telling and re-telling winds its way into my subconscious and wraps itself into the fiber of my soul. It is my mother’s memory; it belongs to her. Yet, in some small but significant way, I have claimed it, making it my own.
This claiming of memories continues with my own young daughter as she asks me to repeat one story she has come to know so well. She knows about the small scar on my head, the one that came from a heavy wooden attic ladder unfolding on my unsuspecting six-year-old skull, my young frightened mother waking me every few hours to check for signs of concussion. She knows that some forty years later, I still cringe with any small reminder of that day. From mother to daughter to granddaughter, our memories bind us, and the act of imparting them creates a bond between generations. It was the memory of my mother’s difficult pregnancy in which she almost lost me that helped me to endure three miscarriages as I struggled to bring my own baby into the world. And, it is the memory of my mother’s strength and endurance during my own childhood that fuels my most difficult days as a parent.
Memories of shopping trips with my mom come back to me as she and my daughter make their own. The three of us continue to thrive, to endure, and to love. And, we do it with borrowed memories.
Deborah Staunton holds a B.S. in early childhood education, a B.A. in theatre arts, and postgraduate credits in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Stage Directions, The Sondheim Review, Writers’ Journal, Amateur Stage, and Sheepshead Review. She has written child development materials for Harcourt Learning Direct and her essay “Promises Kept” won first place for memoir in the Fiction Writer’s Journey annual writing contest.