I have been thinking about emotion and memory.
My memories are loaded with emotions. That’s why I remember them. The emotions make them stand out, make them stick.
What is memory anyways? It is nothing solid. Like all in life, it changes. I can tell that mine moves like a story told over and over. The essential points stay the same, but the details shift. Am I remembering more clearly when this happens, or am I filling in gaps, making things whole, putting clothes on the bones of what I recall?
I remember the Christmas Eve I was in grade 5. My sister and I were given night lights in the shape of genie lamps. All other gifts were abandoned as we carried our lamps around the house, Aladdins in nightgowns and slippers. I remember the two of us, whispering and giggling in the dark cave of the hallway outside our bedrooms. We had turned off the hallway light, and all was now mysterious and spooky as we moved around, genie lamps in hand, their blue plastic light covers casting shadows we couldn’t recognize.
This I remember clearly. What I don’t recall with any certainty is whether my lamp was the pink and black one and Carrie’s the aqua blue and grey one, or the other way around. When I picture us in the December dark, I can see either lamp in my hand. I remember them both.
I don’t know what happened to my genie lamp. I do know I loved it, played with it, kept it on the floor by my bed and close by on my dresser at various times. I suppose I eventually outgrew it, and it was lost deep in the big cardboard toy box Carrie and I shared. Perhaps, when I tired of it, it was given away to a younger cousin or to a daughter of one of my parents’ friends.
What does not shift in this memory of light in the dark, is the feeling of fun and play, laughter and enjoyment, friendship and love with my sister. I feel all of this now as I write. You can’t see me, but I am all grin like the Cheshire Cat, and I shake now and again as a laugh breaks through.
Here in this memory is joy and light and love.
When I am afraid and in the dark, all I need do is remember Carrie and me in that dark hallway, playing with the light of our genie lamps, giggling and whispering. If I trust myself enough to allow this memory and its feeling to fill me, body, head, heart, and spirit, I can see my way here, now. I can walk myself out of fear and the dark, back into light.
My mom-in-law, who does not know this story, found a genie lamp in a garage sale. She bought it and gave it to me. It sits here on my work table, a treasure among treasures. It is exactly like the one in my memory. Aqua blue and grey, like my sister’s lamp, or mine—that part does not matter. To my eyes, it is the colour of light and play and laughter and love.