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I (Don't) Remember Mama


One of the sad realities of life is that, while we may be, say, 40 years of age, we only retain firm memories of perhaps 33 to 35 years of those four decades. Of course, memories of being diapered, laying in one's own poo and unable to articulate thoughts aside from the occasional (frequent?) bawling or tantrum session may not be quite what we want to hold on to.

Of course, there are things I wish I remembered. Mama, for example. She was my maternal, Hungarian-born great-grandmother who emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. She and my mom were very close, and mom has made it clear how much mama (real name Marie) loved me. She'd come to visit us and thought the world of me. She died when I was a little over three years old, so there are no memories of her, just some pictures and what mom has told me.

There are snippets of memory. There's the brief remembrance of toddling across the ranch house my parents and I lived in during the '70s and '80s, from the living room, through the kitchen and on to the breezeway. Mama was in the breezeway, of that I am sure. The images are accompanied by the vivid notion that I was so excited to be on my way to see her. Unfortunately, that is where the impression ends. The actual moment of seeing mama is cut-off, who knows why? The brain does strange things.

Mom always said the first movie I saw theatrically was a reissue of The Jungle Book. I don't have any recollection of that, but take her word for it. The first film I remember seeing at the theater was Star Wars (as it was called then). Mom took me to see it at the Virgina, and we left early because I was bored. What started out with a great space battle and an imposing villain dressed in black, had devolved into two chatty droids walking around in the desert. No thanks. Not something little Matt wanted to sit through.

The snippets I remember of going to see mama, and of Star Wars and, of all things, seeing the movie Kramer v. Kramer (also at the Virginia), were all before 1980, yet I have no memory whatsoever of the presidential race from that year. Reagan vs.Carter. Nothing. Not long after that, however, is when events began solidifying themselves better in my mind. The one week hospital stay for pneumonia -- circa 1981 or 1982 -- is most certainly etched into my brain, as is the head-on automobile collision involving mom, dad and I, and a drunk driver, from around the same time period.

Going forward, the memories become much more frequent.

I don't really care much about not remembering The Jungle Book, or leaving Star Wars because I was bored (got to see both movies at an older age where they could be better appreciated), though I do wish there was something to latch on to involving my great-grandmother. There is, in truth, a slight pang of guilt at not remembering someone who apparently loved me so very much. I guess knowing about it is the next best thing.


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