When I was two years old, my mother would put me to bed in my grandparents’ room when we went to visit their farm. One evening, I could hear them talking in the next room and I wanted to be where the action was. So… I kept climbing out of my crib and sashaying into the parlor. Each time I was returned to my crib–sometimes by my mother, other times by her mom. This memory stands out like a recurring nightmare (except it’s no bad dream; it really happened):
Here I am. My grandmother has put me back in my crib, and I’m struggling to get up and out again. It’s begun to be a game–this up and down and up and down and up and down. I’m determined to win, but my grandmother is stronger. She puts her hands on my shoulders and holds me down. I scream like a banshee. I cannot move and I am furious.
She shushes me, taking her right hand and covering my mouth, but her hand covers my mouth and nostrils and I can’ breathe. My grandmother is smothering me. I’m going to die. Without oxygen, my chest burns like fire. I am dying.
Snot blows out between her fingers, and my grandmother jerks back her hand. I gulp in a lungful of air. Then another.
I understand today that my grandmother was not trying to kill me. From her perspective, she was making sure I obeyed the bedtime adults had set for me. I’m not sure I ever learned that, but I certainly learned to be very careful around people who had my life in their hands.
As I’ve aged, sleep has become more attractive than joining the company of the night owls in the next room. But, truth be told, I resent anyone covering my mouth to stifle my voice. I will not be silenced.
Writing prompt: Recall a memory of your youth that you wish you could forget. There are those who say the things we remember are for a reason; these memories give us chances to learn life lessons. Why do you think that “bad” memory sticks in your mind? Now that you are older, is there a new and deeper perspective you can bring to this memory that you did not have when you were younger? What have you learned with the passing of time?