After the trip to Duluth in February, memories started to fade like tendrils of steam rising from Lake Michigan on a winter morning. When all the memories are gone, how will I feel?
Thank God I sat down and wrote out scenes for my memoir after I returned home from Duluth. I wrote about the afternoon I visited Keith (my birthmother’s husband) in the backroom of his Hinkley curio shop, the shelves stacked to the ceiling where tiles revealed stains from the leaking roof. Isles narrow, the scent of mold and dust thick, voices of Olivia Benson and Stabler in an episode of Law and Order SVU wafting in the background. I hadn’t seen him since June 1999. I wrote about the remembrance ceremonies I held the next day on Lake Superior for my birthmother, capturing moments where I sat on the snow covered shoreline gazing into a blinding haze, a guy riding his fat-tired bike out onto the ice and disappearing, my two photocopied pages of documents burning in my dog’s water bowl. And I wrote about the ice-covered beach on London Road, half a mile from my birthmothers former property where a 4-bedroom lake-side house has replaced her former 2-bedroom cape cod. On that beach the ashes from my document burning ceremony fluttered away from me on a slight breeze, and I stood as it snowed marveling at the people brave enough to venture onto the ice to fish and walk.
Every so often I think back on the pages I wrote in February, paperclipped in the binder of my draft memoir. I’ll get back to them in May, I reassure myself. And while time goes by, I check the recesses of my mind for the other 22-years of memories that are also fading. I marvel instead of missing them because somehow I feel lighter, as if I can finally breathe.
I held tight to the memories of Anita my birthmother dying three hours after I met her, my adopted mom and her anger and resentments. I lugged it all behind me like a bag of water softener salt, heavy and unyielding. For 22-years those memories were all I had, lurking at inopportune moments like the monster in the closet, the hand I used to imagine grabbing for my ankle from under the bed. An emptiness is settling upon me, sadness flittering away, the empty space in my heart sighs with relief, I will write about it on another day.