It’s strange how our memories of the same events are never exactly the same as for those who were also there. For instance, my parents once ‘rescued’ a mother and her six children from starvation—and, in the case of the mother, from insanity. The woman was terribly depressed, but she managed to call my mother and asked her to come get her children. She was going to die and wanted my mother to raise her children. Had Mom and Dad left the woman alone, she probably would have died—one way or the other. As it was, I have no idea how they got that woman and her six children in the car and brought them home from Okla-doggone-homa.
A friend of the family, Pauline Simmons, agreed to take my brother and the woman’s two boys into her home with her son. That left my parents with the woman, her four children, me and the parents in a three-bedroom home. I don’t remember how they did it, but it had to have been crowded. The funny part that I remember was the potatoes, however. Mom had to take the woman and the youngest girl to the doctor. The child was suffering from malnutrition, and the woman didn’t look as if she could live with just bones and skin holding her together. Anyway, Mother left the rest of us girls at the house and had Grandmother come stay with us until she was able to get back. I don’t remember how Mom got to Henrietta to see the doctor, but Grandmother stayed with us and ‘supervised’ what we were doing in the kitchen.
Now I had been trained since a pup to do what Mom had told me the way she had told me to do whatever. She had pointed at a bag of potatoes and told me to peel and cook them. Grandmother helped a bit, but she began to protest after half the bag was peeled. I told her we had to do the whole bag and cook them. We did. Almost as soon as Mom came in the door, Grandmother began to apologize to Mom for letting me cook that entire bag of potatoes. Mom laughed and said it would take every one of them. It did. Not one bite remained of those potatoes, and Grandmother was simply amazed. Now those were some hungry kids. I don’t remember if the boys came to our house to eat or if Pauline fed them, but they probably came to our house.
As I sit here, I wonder what the smallest child remembers from that time or if she would even remember the time she lived with us. I can’t even remember how long they stayed. And she was just a little thing, so she probably doesn’t even remember it. The last time I saw her, she was a police officer and definitely did not look malnourished. But she did not want to talk to me, so maybe she has her own memories.
Today a woman came over to our table at CiCi’s and hugged me. I knew she was one of my former students. She had trouble remembering my last name, but she told me that the transcription that I made her slave over had finally been put to good use. I was glad that she had trouble remembering my name since hers was beyond my recall. She introduced her daughter to me and told me that her daughter was finding my English grammar book helpful in her classes. Her comment made me feel good. Then I heard her tell her mother later, “She is the teacher who always told us that she was meaner than a snake.” It amuses me that I get hugs from so many ‘snake lovers.’ But then, I don’t remember ever handling any mean snakes—a few uninvited ones, maybe.
Anyway, we all remember things about our experiences differently depending on our perspective and how things affect us at the time. The young woman who hugged me today must have enjoyed her experiences in my classroom—slave labor and all. The policewoman who stayed with us when she was a little girl may not remember those days at all, or she may have bad memories of that time in her life. What we hold near and dear is what is important in my estimation. The rest is gone and past. If we care to resurrect fear, pain, and resentment, or if we cherish good memories, it is our own choice. But you can just bet your boots that one woman's box of buttons will contain a different set of memories than mine or anyone else’s that I knew when I was younger. Matching buttons to button holes is difficult enough; matching memories is even harder. If a memory suits one’s mood, why bother rearranging the buttonholes?