Memory and Memoir I

Funny things happen with memory when you’re writing a memoir. Just a few weeks ago, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt what went down during the blizzard of 96’. I, or the weaker version of myself I tend to forget, was at Saint Christopher’s hospital for one perfect week. Pneumonia. As far as I’m concerned now, it was one of the greatest things that has ever happened. Baller ass hospital food (my how times have changed) for that week, three times a day and no one complaining that I was “eating them out of house and home” or saying I had a tapeworm–the nerve, those Ramen noodles are damn near free anyway, and that’s most of what we ate at home, motheruckers need to calm down.

Anyway, the nurses there were nice to me. I remember that being my first encounter with a mob of friendly adults, and the first time I thought about women sexually. I loved that damn hospital. I tried to make all kinds of excuses to stay, though I remember distinctly, my grandfather coming to visit me there. He called me a pussy and such, the routine as it was, and told me to man up. Then that was it. Next thing you know I was back home washing dishes and hating shit.

But my mother tells a different tale, in between getting on my goddamn nerves in the kitchen this weekend when I was trying to cook of course. She says that she had to trek all the way up to Saint Chris from our apartment on Paul Street in that snow and then she stayed there every night. Said Earl never visited. Then she said she read stories to me every day, and all the other kids started to hang out in my room so they could hear said unspecified stories. And then–

That’s when I had to cut her off.

“You,” I said. “Read me stories.” I slanted my eyes at her over the popping grease, fried something was about to happen.

“Yes Joey, every single night,” she said.

“And it was so captivating that all the poor motherless children had to come join in huh.”

“I don’t know all that Joey, damn, they just came.”

I laughed. “Okay,” I said. “I’m still gonna need you to get out the kitchen so I can make food that actually tastes good.”

“Whatever Joey, I’m gonna go call my man.”

And then, I wrote a poem about it. Yes, that seems to be my life in emotional intelligence 101. Anger = Poem. Still though, I think the whole event reeked of the many times she’d claimed to be around but so clearly wasn’t. Sure, the first nine months after conception are accounted for, but after that…naw son. And read stories? That got me. Especially since I don’t ever remember her reading. Ever. I mean I assumed she could because now she’s constantly sexting old dudes for money, but still. Not a single memory of my childhood–maybe Nika or Julian remember but I, as the oldest don’t–involves my mother reading anything to anyone. Let alone a group of eager, sickly children.

But, I have to challenge my bias about that. There are other ways I can verify things, blah blah. I mean, she was right about the jail/hospital I was born in so whatever. More importantly though, the writing continues.

One thought on “Memory and Memoir I

  1. “My memory is always under the control of the person I now want and strive to be, and so rarely under the control of the facts. If the personal facts of one’s past are this difficult for other people to face, then perhaps it is no wonder that we must cast about outside ourselves for someone to feel superior to, even though there are so many blunders and misdeeds in our own personal histories that might serve that function. ” (Piper, Adrian. “Passing for White, Passing for Black.”)


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