We often read stories in the news of people suddenly coming forward with memories long suppressed, and then suddenly, a dam breaks, they tell their story and everyone is stunned as a new truth surfaces. Readers often question “why so long?”; like they have the right to question these memories.
My story includes many good and bad memories, some as vivid as yesterday that I have never forgotten. Then there are others, tucked away to suddenly surface when triggered by some odd event or conversation.
Then there is a third kind – the kind that at the moment, you think it is weird, but you handle it and walk away. Once in a while, over the years that memory pops up, but you don’t understand WHY it bugs you, so you just keep putting it away. Then SUDDENLY – one day – that memory comes back vividly, and you see it for the first time, as it actually was – the full implications of the situation. And you go WHOA! With good memories, this could be amazing; to have your perspective changed. But with bad memories, how do you deal with them decades later?
I never understood how this really happened until the other night; when in the time-space of 10 minutes, a memory from my teens, surfaced with surprising clarity in a fashion that shook me to the core. My entire life, I have looked at a seemingly innocent incident as just that – innocent. Nothing happened, no one got hurt, and I just tucked it away like nothing. Yet suddenly, the other night, the truth of this situation hit me and knocked the breath out of me! This was witnessed by two close friends, who I am grateful for their support.
Let me take you back to the incident:
I was 17 years old, living in foster care in Oakbank. I had been in this home for over a year, with two other girls around my age. She and her husband had no children of their own. I kinda did my own thing; followed the rules (I was not a rule breaker); and kept to myself. I liked my foster home, my foster dad was awesome, but she had her moments, so we were not very close.
This particular day, my foster mother was in bed sick with the chicken pox. No one else was home. She called me into her room, and she was laying in bed, naked but covered with a sheet. Initially, she asked me to put calamine lotion on her back. I couldn’t really see any marks but I did what I was told. I was uncomfortable but stood my ground. My mother had beaten any backbone I had out of me; which was why I ran away and was in foster care in the first place. I did what I was told, when I was told, and rarely asked questions.
Once that done, she lay backwards, propped up against the headboard, and let the sheet drop, exposing her bare breasts. “Can you put some on here too?” she asked. I was taken aback and very uncomfortable about the request. “Come on, its okay, we are both girls; we have the same equipment; they are only breasts. We all have them,” she urged.
I hesitated, turning beet red, and ready to bolt, I looked at her and I looked at her breasts. Before I could react, she took my hand and placed it on her naked chest and showed me how she wanted me to put lotion on her. I freaked; yanked back my hand, and squeaked, “I can’t.” and bolted from the room.
The next time I saw her, she acted like nothing happened; with the exception that she no longer seemed to want to be around me. There was a huge distance between us. So I withdrew as well, knowing that when I was turning 18, I would be moving out anyway.
And I filed this away and never told a soul.
Fast forward to this week, and this memory suddenly changed in my mind.
With complete horror, I played that memory over, and realized what the entire scene really implied. In the span of 10 minutes, I realized that my foster mother had tried to molest me and somehow, I had escaped it by my own volition – yet I have NEVER EVER looked at that scene with those eyes until this week! I am 50 – you do the math!
As I quickly processed this, so many things surfaced:
- Were there others?
- Is this why one of my foster sisters always “napped” with her? and was horribly jealous when I moved in, until I got a boyfriend?
- Was this why my foster mother suddenly wanted me to move out, even though I could have stayed after I was 18?
- Had I dropped the ball when I was called to testify against her when another family was trying to get their daughter removed from her care?
- Is she still a foster mother?
- Is this why her marriage ended?
- What about other foster kids in other foster homes?
At this point I stopped myself. There was nothing to be gained by seeking answers to any of these questions, at this point.
So ya! This week, I learned how memories can surface, and with new eyes and perspective, we may suddenly see what was once innocent, as a completely different thing. How we deal with it, is what is important.
The old me, would have been sent into a post-traumatic breakdown. As I keep saying – 10 minutes – I went from remembering, to realization, to processing (with a few OMG, tears and brief rise of panic) and then choosing how to deal with it.
I have chosen to share what I have learned from this experience, and move on! There is nothing to be gained by pursuing this further. All I know is that I am grateful, for whatever instinct or Spirit, that drove me from that room. I am grateful that in my innocence, I did not see it for what it was at the time; it would have damaged me. I have also gained a new respect for people who have similar experiences.
I encourage you to make a choice – to heal and move forward. These memories can’t hurt us anymore; and with acknowledging them, and setting them free, we free ourselves to heal, and move on.