recollection :: one

i have been feeling an urge. an urge to illustrate and narrate my small stories. the little moments that have somehow shaped who i am as a person. i keep noticing what seems to sink in with the little; what moments end up suspended in her brain; the things she wants to re-live, repeat, share. it's always been fascinating to me what s t i c k s. it's not always the things that you might think. it's not the graduations, birthdays, or the big things [although they are there too]. it's often something overlooked that actually makes an impact. [oh our curious brains]. so i started a list. a list of things that i remember from my childhood/growing up. some of them actually feel like a series of things that have become a singular movie that i see in my mind [fuzzy]... some of them link to an overall feeling of safety, or family, or belonging. some of them are, naturally, painful. i keep coming back to the idea that there is usually an image that seems more prominent than others as i recall these things [sometimes there's a few]. like the cover of a novel there's a signature front... and i keep wanting to draw them.

i also realize that our memories are not necessarily accurate. and in the end that doesn't matter. it's not rocket science to admit we make our own reality.

if there's one thing i've learned about myself and these urges - i should follow them, or else they start to haunt me and actually just might prevent me from doing other things.

so... let's start at the beginning. my first clear memory [i'm 2 - so it's really not that clear, but there are flashes that i can see, and really feel if i close my eyes].

we are not home. it's just me and mommy. she is in an all black robe [kimono] - with white that peeks out where it crosses her chest. there are white emblems on the collar too. 

we are in a room. it's square. no one is wearing shoes. we sit on the floor [tatami]. there are other people in the room. some of them are in black robes too. 

there is a man. he sits in the middle of the room - the rest of us surround him. he has no hair. he is chanting. endlessly. 

my legs hurt. they are cramped. but i sense i shouldn't move. or make much noise. 

the chanting. it goes on for what feels like forever. all the faces, but none i recognize. when we get up my legs are unsure. wobbly.

...   ...   ...   ...

this was my obasan's funeral. i don't really remember people crying. or my mother being sad. which i know she was. i don't remember who else was there, or any other part of that trip, really. i know what others have said. i think when we flew to japan my mom and i were late... she was running down long airport hallways with me [but i've heard this story so many times i don't know if that's my memory, or my remembering people telling me]. i think someone held up the plane for us. i know i was trying to reassure my mom [so she tells me]. 

i do know i haven't been to another funeral quite like it. that the smell of tatami, particular incense, and certain kinds of wood transports me back to japan. that if i see an image of a buddhist priest sitting from a certain angle, this comes back. 

i also know that i would not want to be a newish mom traveling 1/2 way around the world with my toddler child to say goodbye to my own mother. i think about how strong [and young] my mother was. how until i was a mother there was no way to understand the depth of resources and reserves a mother seems to develop. or that the gratitude you feel for your own mother is magnified 1000 fold when you become one. 


Susan Schwake said…
this is a beautiful idea and this first story is powerful. it's interesting to me that you mentioned the smell of the tatami mats. when you are young i think everything seems so much stronger and vivid in the details. this makes me want to write down some memories.
floored by this story & drawing, lisa. i can't wait to see more.
Janey G said…
wonderful truly wonderful! and yes becoming a mother certainly does highlight your own mother's life in clarity....for me it was the other end of the spectrum...i became a mother and became horrified at my own mother's behaviours and life....just how could she?! i suppose these are different stories to tell! looking forward to many more of your stories xxx
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing such a VERY powerful story/memory indeed! Those first few memories of childhood when one's language and/or thinking have not fully developed are often even more intense. Sight, sound, touch, and/or smell (in this instance) can make a more significant and lasting impact at that age. Also, one does not have many other memories at a very young age that tend to crowd out or diminish the strength of the first few.

What a loving child you were to try to reassure your Mom when you realized she must have been upset.

Yes, one gains perspective about and hopefully more appreciation for one's parents when one has become a parent her/himself.
√Čireann said…
lisa, this is going to be amazing.

and—remember a while ago you sent me something experimental? something maybe more in my 'area of expertise' than yours, usually? i wonder if some things like that might be part of this new project.

You know I had to poke around and find the first recollection. These are wonderful.

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