What comes to mind when I think of the word memory?
When I think of the word memory, I immediately think of my childhood. My childhood was delightful, free, rough, beautiful and hard at times. I remember myself as a child, between 8-10 years of age, riding my bicycle around the front of my grandparent’s grey cinderblock home. There is a circular dirt driveway of sorts and a teepee ground about 200 yards from the house. To the right of the house is a fenced in cornfield on an acre or so, but it is dry and unkempt because it is the beginning of fall season. I am riding the bike and I have white soccer shoes on (cleats and all) and my black hair is in one thick braid. I am playing with my younger brother, L, who is either riding a bike or playing in the dirt, I can’t recall. I remember the day turning to dusk and we were still playing outside and my parents drove up and asked if we wanted to go with them to a graduation ceremony for one of my aunts or uncles. I remember the temptation of going to town (30-40 miles one way) and getting a treat from the store or at the graduation ceremony. I remember my body and soul longing to go but there was something stronger holding me back. At a young age, I knew that graduation ceremonies weren’t always fun, for young kids like me and my brother, and that I probably wouldn’t get a treat from the store or graduation. But what kept me at my grandparent’s home that evening? I am not exactly sure how to explain but I will explain it as the love of my grandfather and the feeling of being home, being in one place, feeling safe and warm under our blankets for the night. That was much more important to me then going to town and being in a crowd of proud family members and eating dinner at a restaurant afterwards. That memory sticks in my head and I always think of that moment as a time when I was very happy and content with myself, my surroundings and the life around me.
Memory also gets me day dreaming about my daughter who is two years old. May sound like such a cliche but it is very true how much a child of your own changes your life and perspective. I think about the night she was born and how painful it was to give birth, but then seeing our daughter on my husband’s chest immediately afterwards was so humbling and amazing. I think of how hard it was the first couple of months with my husband, daughter and I getting used to each other in this new situation. Everyday was a whole new door opened for all three of us, and it just got even more entertaining and easier. It is really something to see a little tiny human command four or five adults in the room, and she always had, and still does, us smiling and laughing. I remember I would study people especially my parents and siblings when they interacted with our daughter and it was beautiful. I’d never seen a look of such love and loyalty in my their eyes and their expressions was of such content and happiness. They never stop smiling and still haven’t! It is just beautiful to think of those moments. I even reserve memories of when my daughter is in pain from a cold or fever or cut/bruise and I want to take it all away so I feel the brunt of the pain. Of course, that is impossible because I’ve learned they need to feel and go through the process of the pain and from which they learn and become stronger. In that process, I’ve also learned and become stronger.
Fast track to the present day where my daughter is two years old and tall and beautiful. Everyday she is learning and saying new words or phrases and sentences. It is so darn cool to hear words you hear and use everyday and take for granted, come from a child’s mouth. My daughter learns and hears Navajo from me and hears a majority of English for most of the day at her childcare and my husband and friends and some family members. She has not yet said complete sentences but she takes and gives instructions in Navajo very well. She is so adorable when she says, “Wooh ch’iish” or “I want to brush my teeth.” I am so proud of her and I hope she is fluent in Navajo as well as I am. During these moments of her speaking Navajo or English, I am transported again to my childhood and remember speaking Navajo to my family. I remember that I was often asked to name the four directions in Navajo and everyone would listen and watch. I do not remember whether they were impressed or were even listening but I remember doing it. When I remember that time, it is like I am looking and listening to myself. The light from the east window is concentrated on me while everyone sits in the shadow of the walls or doorway. I see myself pointing and reciting the fours directions. Often I ask my mother to tell me things from my childhood, and one of my favorites is her telling me that I did not learn or began speaking English until I entered kindergarten. I just love that and I hope the same for my daughter.
Memories serve me well in the positive sense but sometimes memories make me sad and long for the past. My childhood was stable as it could be because I had adults taking care of us and feeding us, and worked alongside us. I had a place to sleep every night and I was not abused in any way. My siblings and I were and are very fortunate. What makes me sad is the fact that those days are gone and I long to be back in that moment in time. Those long ago days were simple, free and content, and I was very happy. Then I became an adult and now I write about and share those memories on a blog. I still am very happy with my life.