Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan

Saturday, July 10, 2004

My First Memory...

Since this Blog is decidedly about me, my experiences, my life, challenges, triumphs and the ever changing “I”, occasionally I will be adding moments that helped forge my identity. Memories—if not always accurate—are what they are. Here is my first.

Blood trickling from my nose, I stared wide-eyed into the eyes of the two older girls sitting on either side of me. We were in the back-seat of a sea-foam green Dodge Plymouth that bounced and weaved its way over the rolling hills and winding valleys of Western Pennsylvania. The hospital wasn’t far, but my mother was in no shape to drive, so her friend, Charlotte, picked us up at the Richland Mall with her two girls in tow.

“Joy, everything will be fine—look at him, he’s not even crying.”

The “him” was me—and the fact that I was not crying was not reassuring to my mother, who had just witnessed her two-year-old son topple out of a shopping cart and land head first on the linoleum-floor of a department store.

My nose had started bleeding immediately. This letting of blood, along with the fact that my baby face remained remarkably placid throughout the ordeal—only added to my mother’s fear that I had sustained some terrible head injury.

I don’t know how much of this is my memory and how much of it has become my memory through countless retellings, but I do remember the sense of helplessness and dread my mother experienced in those moments after my fall.

“Oh my god! My baby!”

A few plump, swollen-ankled women looked on as she lifted me from the floor to her chest and dabbed my bloody nose with her blouse. She carried me into the mall’s commons, and, like a gypsy women, she approached each stranger with begging eyes.

“please help me, my baby…my baby.” The Sunday shoppers backed away and stared as my mother pleaded for someone to help her.

Finally, a middle-aged, doughy looking policeman approached my mother, “Ma’am, please calm down. What seems to be the—”

“My boy…my baby, he fell and hit his head, he’s bleeding, he’s not crying!”

“Ma-am, why don’t we sit down right over here.” he gestured toward a bench.

“No, you don’t understand! He’s got to go to the hospital.”

“O.K. ma’am…”

In retrospect, I don’t remember why or how I ended up in the back-seat of the sea-foam green Plymouth. I know my mother was in no shape to drive, but why didn’t the policeman call an ambulance? Why didn’t he drive us himself?

What I do remember is looking at the pretty smiling faces of the two girls sitting next to me. I remember them repeating things their mother had said, “Don’t worry honey, it’s gonna be O.K., Everything’s gonna be fine.” And that’s it.

I don’t remember the x-rays and nurses and doctors. I don’t remember them telling my parents that I wasn’t injured in the fall, but that they x-rays revealed a tumor, “Probably a congenital defect,” they speculated.

I don’t remember hearing that I would have to be operated on; that the tumor in my head would have to be removed. And I certainly don’t remember the fear my parents endured through all of this. Can you imagine finding out your two-year-old son needed to have surgery to remove a tumor from his head?

As first memories go, this one makes sense to me. Even if it isn’t all my own, this is the moment my memory rewinds back to and stops. Everything else plays forward from there…


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