My Words

New Year, New Course, Old Memories

The new year has seen the start of a new writing course with Laura Lentz, and tonight we touched on memories. The prompt I followed was about flashbulb memories. The long-lasting, usually vivid, memories were first talked about, funny enough, in 1977, which wouldn’t have been too much before my little, ever-lasting memory I wrote about would have happened. Did happen? That’s the funny thing about old memories. Even with vivid detail and emotional responses, the true details of events after they happen can actually become as much a mystery as a memory. Below is my flashbulb memory…

I’m on the stairs in my mother’s arms. We’re in the yellow and white split level with the rust red shag in the living area and on the stairs and the bubbly yellow glass alongside the front door. We have to have been changing laundry because when I was young enough to be in her arms that’s all that was in the never-finished basement of my childhood home. And I know I was in her arms. I know I was less than three because Kendall came when I was three. I remember that day – I built a house out of giant box with my 7-year-old uncle, Duane. I remember that but I don’t remember I was doing it because my mom was in the hospital having my baby brother. Even after my grandmother told me why we were building it, surprised I remembered the box house and being impressed my uncle had a pocket knife, I didn’t connect that box to my brother being born. You’d think I would remember that bit, but never mind that, I’ve gone off track.

I have my elephant and we’re going back upstairs from the basement. I’m in my mother’s arms and I watch him drop down the stairs. I know – to this day I know – that it was a greyish white with blue edging and pink cheeks. It mildly reminds me of those Golden Story Book characters. You know the ones, rght? It was almost squeaky-toy plastic with that plastic toy smell that I still love to this day. The smell of pool floaties and plastic figures. I think I was chewing on it? Maybe I wasn’t. My mom only vaguely remembers the elephant at all. She says maybe she thinks it was a shower gift. I know there’s a gift list in my baby book. I’m sure I’ve looked it up before to see if “Special Elephant” is listed among the gifts, but I digress again. Back to the memory…

I’m in my mother’s arms on the stairs with the rust red shag and I have my elephant, until I don’t. I drop it and watch it go to the bottom. And it’s not the first bottom, where the front door is, it’s all the way to the bottom, the landing for the second stairs, and she doesn’t stop to pick it up. We don’t go back down to get it. I don’t know if I asked her to. I don’t know if I could have asked her to, I don’t know how I old I was, but I remember being sad. And now, forty plus years later, certain times of minimal sadness put me back on that staircase. Not monumental sadness. Not true, heart wrenching, gut punch sadness. The simple kind. Showing up at the Sev only to find out they don’t have Cola Slurpees will remind me of losing my elephant. And showing up at the Sev for any kind of Slurpee will bring back a whole load of other memories until they’ve tucked the little elephant thought away in it’s applicable drawer in the memory space of my mind. Oh Slurpees…

There’s another memory with a car trip with little kids and two impatient fathers and mothers doing all they can and a toddler crying for a Slur-ur-ur-ur-peee. For minutes? Hours? Miles? Days? Depends on which one of us you ask, but we do all remember the Slurpees. And I definitely, absolutely, positively, almost certainly, vaguely remember my elephant. I remember dropping him on the stairs and I remember the crushing realization as a toddler that this time my mom wasn’t going to get him, and I was going to have to deal with being disappointed. And now, when small disappointments come up, when I can’t get my Slurpee or I forgot to grab creamer at the store, I see my little elephant at the bottom of those shag carpet stairs, and I remember.


  • Barbara Dumas

    Well I have to say you have a mean Mom but then I started to giggle a bit because if I got to the top of the stairs and the elephant landed at the very bottom it probably meant my cute. 2 year old threw it down there and not for the first time 😘🤣 and then my momma guilt took back over and I am sorry I didn’t go get it for you.
    Love you and thanks for sharing. 💜💛

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