Playing with the Memories of Time

Eyes shut, I follow Miss Perry’s prompts. It’s my first English class in America. Miss Perry looks precisely like what I envisioned an American teacher to be. Blond hair—almost bleached—pinned back into a bun by a yellow pencil. The deep blue of her eyes is soft yet penetrating. Her tiny intellectual glasses reside at the tip of her nose and threaten to fall off at any moment.
“This is our weekly creative writing exercise,” she announces.
“Think back to when you were very small. As far as you can remember,” she instructs the class. “When you’re ready, open your eyes and begin writing down your earliest memory. Write without stopping! Keep writing! Do not put down your pencil under any circumstance! No erasing, no corrections!”
Miss Perry became my favorite teacher and the only one I remember by name. At the conclusion of this guided meditation, I produced my first story. That memory—dredged out from the dungeon of my mind, that first week of ninth grade—is my earliest memory to date.

I’m happily building castles in the sandbox, when my father appears. We are visiting the Kibbutz where I was born. It’s the kind of place where a three year-old can play safely on her own for hours.
“Sweetheart, you’ve been playing here so quietly, for so long, that we completely forgot about you!” he gravely declares.
I look up at him, numb and surprised.
In a very serious tone, my dad continues: “Your mother and I were headed home, when suddenly, we turned our heads and noticed you were missing from the back seat where you belong!”
Their favorite and only little girl had been forgotten. He told me that they spun the vehicle around and sped back down the gravel road to fetch their baby.
I was horrified. “How could my parents forget me?” I jumped up, cleaned the sand off my dress and grabbed dad’s hand. At that moment, I vowed to pay more attention, never lose track of time and never let anyone forget me.
Suddenly I was startled by the bell. I gathered my frenzied scribbles and rushed off to other classes. When Miss Perry returned our assignment I was very pleased and could hardly wait to boast. Proudly, I handed my mom the paper marked with a large red “A” and waited patiently. Finally, she looked up, paused, gathered her thoughts and praised: “I love the story. You did a great job!”
“But,” another long pause followed.
“That never happened. We never forgot you. Believe me, a mother would never leave her child,” she stated lovingly, emphatically. I was shocked. I remembered the sandbox so clearly. For years this traumatic memory generated an irrational fear of abandonment in me. I believed I was at fault. I was embarrassed with what I had done and never told anyone about my fear. Is it possible I dreamed this whole tale?
To my surprise, rather than corroborating my story, my dad adamantly concurred with my mom. They proposed a different scenario for the park incident: my dad, known for his sense of humor, was most likely pulling my leg. The more I thought about it, the more I recognized they were right. His joke went over my three year-old head and limited sense of humor. As a mother myself, I know that, no parent would forget their child. My dad, who never meant to frighten me with his joke, was full of remorse after reading my essay. Luckily, I was a well-adjusted young woman and the scarring, if any, from my fictitious abandonment was minimal.
Smadar Belkind spends her days hunting for priceless treasures: the stories, memories and family legacies hidden by the passage of time. Her fascination with these topics led her to her great-grandmother’s diaries, now a remarkable book: Stored Treasures. Smadar believes that we should write our stories throughout our lives, for ourselves and for future generations. She blogs at Past-Present-Future where she connects the past with the beauty of the present and the mystery of the future.
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Twitter: @StoredTreasures
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3 Responses to Playing with the Memories of Time

  1. Reblogged this on Past-Present-Future and commented:
    Today, I had the honor to guest blog for the Author’s writing initiative 10DayBookClub! The idea behind this post is to encourage people to start writing their own memoirs!

  2. julie says:

    A great piece as always Smadar. Such vivid memories, could picture you in the sand pit. How funny how things our parents say in jest etch themselves into our minds.

  3. Thanks Julie. Often, it’s the things that scar that we remember. This was a relatively harmless one, but it really makes you think. No one is perfect. I’m sure I may have said the wrong thing to my kids without knowing it. We all try not to, but we do. Key is to keep the conversation going with your kids isn’t it?

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