• Barbara Elk

Memories are Powerful

Updated: Jul 9, 2019

I just heard these words from a movie, "You can't miss what you never had".

They triggered memories of what I did have. Memories that exist in every room I have ever been in. They don't just follow me, they're in front of me and on both sides of me. My ghosts of a past home and a life that have followed me ever since I was ripped away from them.

This was and is my daily life.

As a child, I would see my mother's lovely face alongside the angry expressions of my adopted parents as they raged at me for taking too long with completing chores.

As I sat by myself on the playground during school, I would see brief glimpses of my siblings among my classmates. Everyone on the playground would be running, skipping, laughing and squealing in delight, some playing chase between the swings and slides. This is the type of play I did with my long-lost siblings.

After dinner, I would walk across the backyard with the dog bowl full of food towards the chained-up, sweet tempered, midnight-black Labrador they had tethered to a towering pine tree. Sometimes, when I looked up towards the darkening sky, the faint iridescent sliver of the moon would greet me with its majestic beauty. A moment like that easily prompted the memory of wolves howling. With a single paint stroke, the open sky would gradually place me standing in front of my biological grandparents simple, one room house where a dim light would softly glow from the single window by the front wooden steps. Behind the cozy home, a wide golden field extended in all directions, ending dramatically against the jagged, black outline of the distant forest trees. Above the tree line was a clear night sky, chock full of bright stars that winked at you. And those brilliant stars followed and surrounded the mysterious moon as it led them across the night sky while the wolves howled in the distance.

These living memories would always be interrupted by the voices and sounds of the present.

As a child, I lived in the world of constant memories. I needed them to give me peace, help me to cope, and they offered me hope.

My first adoption home was brief.

It was at my second adoption home that I learned that I was unlovable. I knew I wasn't treated well and everything about it felt wrong. But I continued in silence because I learned in the early days and months that I could be controlled by fear. Fear of the belt, paddle and overt intimidation. I was a small, petite child. So my parents who towered over me used their size to their advantage against me. I was only nine.

As a child, all you want to be is loved and told that you are special and amazing. You want to be shown respect and to be heard. You want to learn but not by being screamed at and physically pushed around. It was during those early times that I learned to use my memories that were still fresh, to help me and to remind me that I came from another place that was better than the one I was in presently.

I've been told that I have remarkable memories from my childhood. It's not a mystery as to why I have retained so much. I made sure to not lose them over the years. I conjured them to give me peace, help me cope and they offered me hope.


I still have these memories. Being taken from my family in the way I was, ripped out of my home, ripped away from my mother, ripped away from my crying siblings who were also torn asunder, those memories have been my life-saver.

Since I was twenty-one, I was asked these types of questions:

"How did you survive with a history like yours?"

"How are you still standing?"

"Why is it that you're not an alcoholic, drugged up or even dead?"

"How did you make it?"

I live a "normal" looking life. I have two wonderful children (who are now grown) and an amazing and supportive husband.

I keep the childhood memories from the time spent with my biological family and community, in front and present at all times. That's what's saved me. That and my faith in the Unseen who are all around me. That gave me the strength to pull myself up when I was at my lowest and looking for a way out of this life. My memories continue to give me peace, help me cope, and they offer me hope.

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