I say “stories that are mine to tell”, but is this one really mine?
Many memories overlap and intersect with someone else’s, but this story does not live in the black and white world of my memory vs theirs, having been created during shared experiences, thus creating a story we both call our own. This story, these memories, exist within the shades of gray.
In my minds eye I see the teenage girl with the long strawberry blond hair staring at a pink newborn through the nursery glass.
If I look closer I see the days before where she was in labor, scared and crying out for her mother. I see them take the baby from her, the baby she is not allowed to hold.
Looking still closer I can see the months earlier, before being sent to the Bronx home for teenage unwed mothers, when she defiantly pushed an empty stroller down the block she lived on for all the neighbors to see.
In my memory I see the form fitting mini dress showing the beginning of a baby bump. I see the strides she takes, the proud arch of her back as she blatantly extends her growing belly. I remember the weather that day, the sky is clear, still slightly cool as winter gives way to spring.
Oh wait, I don’t remember these things. I couldn’t possibly. I am the baby. The baby she looks at through the nursery glass. I am three day’s old and I don’t yet have a name.
Again though I imagine I can see her standing there. The nun in her black habit approaches her and gently places a hand on my young mother’s shoulder, softly she says “if you wish to be the one to name her you must do it now or we will when we baptize her”.
It is the only thing she is allowed to do. Someday, this first name she gave to her baby may be the only thing she knows about her. She has been desperately trying to dream up a name that is unique.
In these self created memories I can hear the piped in music playing in the hospital corridor… “Indiana wants me, lord I can’t go back there”…I see the teenage girl turn to the nun and say “Deanna”.
The memories continue…On a crisp fall day I see the same teenager on the side of a road with her thumb out. After she receives a ride I see her hand balled into a fist knock upon the door of a home in Bellmore. The home that was meant to be mine. The woman with the kind face who longed to be my mother is too sympathetic to turn this desperate teenage mother away.
The memory of my first Christmas I am not even in. I see my grandmother hand her daughter a gift wrapped box. It contains baby clothes with sweet delicate details. This gift says “ok we will bring her home”.
These are the earliest memories that set the course of my life. Where I would grow up and who I would be.
So perhaps this was my mother’s story, but she has passed it down on more than one occasion through the years. I have accepted it, assigned the imagery of the details I couldn’t possibly know, and placed it in the memory box of my life along side of my own.
And I suppose that makes it my story to tell….