Daily Archives: May 14, 2010

Selective Memory – Crazy or Coping Mechanism?

I have selective memory. It drives my husband crazy. It drives me crazy sometimes.

For example…

This past Mother’s Day was wonderful. One of the best ever. And my husband was an absolute angel, treated me like a queen. When my sister asked me how my Mother’s Day was, I told her it was fantastic.

I asked her how her’s was. Less than fantastic. In fact, it was horrible and it all started on Saturday night when her husband….

Oops. Wait. I remember now. Mine wasn’t so hot. Well, it was, but it didn’t start out that way.

(Let’s play a little Mad Libs, shall we?)

You see, on Saturday, my husband decided to (insert activity) even though I asked him not to. It was something he does (time reference) and I usually have no problem with it. In fact, I never have a problem with it. But it was Mother’s Day weekend and it was sure to (verb) with Sunday. He did it anyway. So at (insert time of day) when he decided to (insert activity) and it (past tense verb) me, I was more than ticked. Mother’s Day started off with a (adjective.)

But the rest of the day was great. Fantastic. Magical, even.

My Pollyanna brain chooses to focus on the magical and forget the awful 24 hours preceeding Mother’s Day. Simple as that. It keeps me sane.

But there is something about my selective memory that really bother me. It eats away at me. It’s a nagging thorn in my parenting manual. What about my childhood memories of my mother?

I try. I really, really try, to remember the positive. You’d think, with my Pollyanna approach, the positive would be all I’d remember. But I can’t. I have fuzzy images of her smiling or laughing – but it either feels forced or it’s in a large group and she’s putting on her show.

There are pictures of her reading to us. But the only memory I have of her reading to me involves us cuddled together on an oversized chair while she lets me have sips of her White Russian (at age 5).

By the time I was a teenager I had learned the art of manipulation. My mother is a shopper. And when you’re in her good graces, she buys you stuff. Lots of stuff. And my parents had the money to buy us lots and lots of stuff. I remember a few shopping trips with me finagling some pretty pricey items (leather jacket, designer jeans, cashmere sweater, jewelry) because I was “Golden Girl” for that week. I was happy in that moment. But the little black cloud of being indebted to her makes that happiness fleeting.

I try. I rack my brain, picturing kindergarten, 2nd grade, 5th grade, 9th grade. Nothing. She is absent from any real memories. I can see my dad. My grandparents. I see my cousins, aunts. No mom. And if I do see her she has her arms folded over her chest and she’s glaring.

What childhood memories do I have?

Testing the waters each day to gauge the mood she was in and wondering if this was the day I could ask her about: going to a friend’s party, staying after school for a project, going to the mall or a movie.

Making vodka tonics for her when she got home from work, waiting anxiously for the bad mood to pass and her “couldn’t care less” attitude to take hold.

Keeping my three younger sisters quiet because she was studying or she was sleeping or she was sick.

My mother pulling my sister by the hair to get her to do something.

Laughing when we flinched if she made a sudden move, thinking we were about to be slapped.

The way she would barge into our room with such force, without knocking or calling out, and how we’d jump three feet into the air, hearts pounding.

Fists through the wall. Broken glass. Slamming doors.

Yelling. Lots of yelling.

Silence. Tip-toeing. Daring not to disturb the sleeping giant.

Because I have so few happy memories with my own mother I am panicked that I’m not creating them with my own children. I quiz my daughter, acting as if it’s a light-hearted exercise, “What’s your favorite memory of you and I when you were in grade school?” or “What’s a favorite vacation we took when you were little?”

The exercise is two-fold. I’m trying to reassure myself that I AM doing a good job. That I’m not repeating my mother’s mistakes. But I’m also trying to ingrain these positive memories, praying that she doesn’t forget the good times.

This is a part of me I’m not proud of. This insecurity I carry is unattractive and stifling. But I can’t seem to let it go. It keeps me focused. It keeps me from repeating negative behaviors.

And I desperately pray, it keeps the good childhood memories flowing for my precious angels.

(This post is part of the Five For Ten project at Momalom. Please visit their site for more wonderful posts on Memory. Or click the button below to find out how YOU can participate!)

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