Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stolen Memories

Recent events sparked a childhood memory. I was seven years old when I begged my mom to put my best Christmas presents, white figure skates and a mother-crafted rag doll, on a chair beside my bed. I wanted to see them first thing in the morning to make sure they were real and really mine.

These last few mornings I've awakened to the painful realization that something special will not be there and will never be there again. My mind's eye goes to my jewelry box and confirms that awful sensation of emptiness.

Thieves came one night while my husband and I were camping in Colorado, enjoying a week on an archeology project followed by a long weekend with our kids and grandkids. We arrived home, tired and happy, to find that our sanctuary had been violated.

My trinkets and treasures, tangible mementos of family and friends, birthdays and anniversaries, trips to exotic places, are gone -- maybe to a pawn shop, or flea market, or worse yet, a dumpster.

I cry. I recover. I cry again. Up and down, I flounder in a vain attempt to keep my head above the waves of loss, violation, anger, and hopelessness. They're only things, I tell myself, don't be so attached to mere things. My friend Ellen tells me to be gentle with myself, and I try. I do. Really.

In my down moments I hear my inner voice ask, is this what it feels like to enter dementia? Are the missing rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets a metaphor for lost brain cells in the inevitable decline of ageing?

Those thoughts amplify my misery, so I slide back into contemplation of my desire to live simply and avoid attachment to objects. This burglary is an emphatic reminder, but I'm not sure I'll heed the call. Look, I've already replaced my stolen laptop!

While I'm mourning and struggling, my wonderful daughter is working behind the scenes. She has sent out an appeal to family and friends to give me jewelry to help fill the void. I have received the first piece, a colorful handmade bead necklace strung by my grandson's four-year-old half sister, a child from the same cryobank donor, a child I hope to meet someday. And the second piece is a personal South African treasure of a friend from Foreign Service days, poignantly meaningful because of the connection with overseas experiences.

As my daughter presses into my hand a pair of turquoise earrings given to her by my stepmother, I feel the healing touch of love and empathy. Now I can look forward to the creation of new memories.

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