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Wednesday, 11 November 2009


By Claire Jean

I remember when I was born
I do remember!
Through eternity I slept,
By its quiet water swept,
In its silence safely kept,
All unknowing, night or day,
All unthinking, there I lay
Suddenly by life compelled,
I was free, no longer held,
Free to hear and feel and cry;
Free to live—or free to die,
Free to be that which am I,
I remember when I was born -
I do remember!

Pearl Buck, A Biography

It cannot truthfully be said that I remember most all that’s happened to me since I was born. On occasion, I’ve tried to reach back into my past hoping to find a starting point that might link up to present feelings and actions.

A very early memory I do have is standing at a neighbor’s glass storm door screaming because my mother was leaving without me. I still find being left behind objectionable.

I also recall my brother compelling me to wear a hula skirt and a lei made from crepe paper to participate in a neighborhood show for parents. This memory is supported by a picture of me in costume, lei and all, wiping my tears and looking quite pitiful. I still don’t like being center stage.

I vaguely remember a store window display featuring a much adored doll. I was certain that doll would soon be mine since I wanted it so badly. One day, my (same) brother and I were discussing our grandchildren’s toys and to my absolute amazement, he reminded me that I did not get the doll. I still don’t like being denied something wanted so badly.

My brother died unexpectedly a few years ago. It will remain a mystery as to what triggered his memory of not only the doll but the name of that doll, Tiny Tears, even I had forgotten. I should have asked him then but, I think, I was too taken aback and maybe feeling a tad ashamed about what might have happened.

Now when I want to know things that might offer a hint of who I am or why I react in certain ways, the people who would hold some of the answers are no longer here to satisfy my curiosity.

Who and what shapes us as the person we become? Does it begin in the womb as Pearl Buck seems to have believed? Do our early experiences, either real or imagined, leave their stamp? Is school a huge factor? Who wasn’t possibly transformed during adolescence? It has been written that girls especially are at risk of losing much of their self confidence during this time. Some seem to appear completely changed due to peer pressure in a period of just a few months.

I sometimes wonder how things would turn out if we were not saturated from birth being told who we should or should not be; what we should or should not do. Does the power of influence begin in the womb and end in the grave?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post


"Now when I want to know things that might offer a hint of who I am or why I react in certain ways, the people who would hold some of the answers are no longer here to satisfy my curiosity."

Yes, Claire Jean, and isn't it a shame? I have so many questions to ask my Mother and others in my family,but they are mostly gone now.

As I have mentioned before: "When an old person dies it is like the library burnt down."

That is why I think it is so important that we write our family stories so that we are leaving a record of why you didn't get that Tiny Tears doll or why we had to leave you crying at the door that day.

Keep writing. Someone will read and appreciate your words some day.

Early memories are fragmented for me. If the situation was traumatic it seems to be imprinted on my brain. I think that's why you remember crying at being left. You probably were afraid that your mother would never come back.

As they say, nature or nurture, your parents will get the blame.

I love it when people live in the QUESTION. There are so many that have all the answers.

Thank you, Claire Jean. Just for that each of my remaining six sisters will get a call today.

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