This illusion – presented as a moment — has always been named a memory to me – Kylie
To make sure that I start this article off on a hugely depressing note, I would like to begin with a fire that devastated my little apartment when I was a young wife with two small children.
It was a dark night, as nights tend to be, and I had put the children to bed and was preparing myself for the same. I heard my small dogs barking ferociously all of a sudden. This wasn’t like them as they did not have little man syndrome like most little dogs do. Nervous since my husband was at work that night, I got up to investigate.
At first, nothing seemed amiss, but it wasn’t long before I smelled the distinct odor of smoke. Since I knew that I was not at a bonfire, I was immediately uneasy and ran looking out all of the windows. Nothing seemed wrong, so I headed back to bed. As soon as I got comfortable, the dogs started up again. I waited about 10 minutes while also yelling in my loudest whisper for them to shut the hell up. Then, I got up and walked back out to the living room. This time I looked out the peep hole thinking maybe I had a midnight visitor which would be completely uncalled for and unexpected.
I put my eye up to the peep hole, looked out, and all I saw was flame. Four seconds later, I felt the heat from the door that had transferred onto my face causing a slight burn. Panicking, but also realizing how lucky I was to be on the ground floor, I grabbed my children and my dogs in one fell swoop. That is not a little feat for someone who that weighed 99 pounds. Yet, I was somehow able to open the dining room window and get all of us outside in one motion.
Within moments a crowd had gathered around and the fire department was busy doing their job with the fire. They determined that someone walking by had tossed a cigarette butt causing the pine straw that lined the entire building exterior to catch fire. Hours later, I was left with healthy animals and children, minor smoke damage to my lungs, a few burns, and the complete loss of everything I owned. Anything that had not burned was ruined from the smoke or the water.
It was my first time ever considering the trauma of losing these kind of items. I had known of it in the past, but I have never taken the time to consider the implications of memories that can never be replaced or heirlooms that have been surviving throughout centuries burned in a flash.
Being a mother and a woman, I shoved my feelings of loss to the side and moved on with rebuilding my life. The Red Cross stepped in as well as insurance and replaced furniture and clothes in addition to providing a new apartment. This was possible because we did opt to pay the extra nine dollars a month to have Renters insurance, although at the time we never thought we would use it. Isn’t that what everyone thinks?
I thought I got through that time pretty much undamaged until I realized later in life that I was a photo hoarder and almost obsessive with my memory making. All of my childhood photos and the baby pictures of my children were burned in the fire. I often thought about all the albums and scrapbooks I had back then. I missed the countless hours that I would spend pulling out these albums to reminisce about my childhood or adding to them with each little event in my children’s lives.
Starting over is something I have had to do many times. It has never been easy, but mostly necessary and my decision. Losing all of your material possessions adds a new traumatic twist to things. Too ashamed to express anything other than my extreme gratitude that no one was hurt, I didn’t allow myself to grieve for my memories that were lost until many years later.
This is not the end of the story.
As history tends to do, it repeated itself many years later. My children were older and I had remarried and had two more children. My first husband had passed away and I was married to my second husband who turned out to be a narcissistic piece of shit if you want me to put it politely.
During one of his drug induced jealous rages, he hit me where he knew it would hurt the most by pulling out all of my photographs and burning them in front of my face. It was one of many traumatic and cruel things he did just because he could.
These unhappy stories from my past are not ones I tell many people for obvious reasons. But I do get tired of getting told to stay in the moment instead of taking pictures. I am an adult. I know what I should do. I also know that I am doing my best and that is good enough for me. Any issues I have or don’t have is not their business. I will keep on replacing, capturing, and making memories as often as I can. Anyone that doesn’t like that can turn away, walk off, or shut up.
Admittedly, I have not learned a whole lot in my lifetime, but one of the few things I have learned is that everyone has different experiences and traumas that make them who they are at any given moment in time. We don’t need to apologize for the way we have chosen to get through this life, or how we heal, or how we grow. We don’t need to explain our idiosyncrasies to anyone for any reason.
I do not plan to stop documenting memories or capturing the images of my life. Legacies do not leave themselves.