CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Make a Memory

 My older sister was three when the family moved to Larchwood . She was very observant and had a memory for the slightest detail , on which we all came to depend through the years . It was reliable and didn't alter over time . She could recount incidents down to the date and everything that happened around the events , including the unrelated that occured coincidentally . Her memories from that time period always amazed me .

 Her recall of the 'runaway carriage' episode
 would include such comments as " You wouldn't stop screaming...it hurt my ears...I had to push the carriage to shut you up...Mum was trying to do the washing... she had two more loads ...Mum had on the apron with the flower embroidered on the pocket...that darn carriage wouldn't stop...I had a hard time...Why did you eat grass ? Babies shouldn't eat grass ....You always tried to eat everything ...Sheesh!"

What made her recall so amazing was that my sister wasn't 'normal' . From her birth Mum would notice her staring off regularly , unresponsive to efforts to " bring her to " . After a few seconds , Sis would return to awareness . Mum was beside herself with worry . Doctors at the time would check her out and say "she is fine - there are no physical abnormalities ." It was not until Sis came to language that it became apparent that she had problems . And later , when she began school , learning to read and write was a real struggle . But the  questions all parents ask- How? Why?- were never answered by doctors or teachers .

Yet , despite her learning difficulties , if she was shown how to do something , Sis would faithfully do it identically as shown and never deviate . So one day when Dad was taking apart the washing machine to fix the motor , he had Sis take the nuts , bolts and washers and place them on the floor aligning nut with appropriate bolt and washer . She watched carefully and remained on task until the motor was fixed and each part back in place .

Some time later , Mum came into the kitchen to find a neatly arranged collection of nuts, bolts and washers on the table . She immediately thought Dad must be fixing something-" I wish he wouldn't do it on the kitchen table " crossed her mind . But then she realized that Dad was at work ; I was too small and not mobile ; so that left Sis . Mum located her sitting under the ironing board hard at work loosening bolts with her fingertips and placing them carefully for reuse .

" What are you doing , Sharon ? "
" Fixing."
" What else did you fix ? "
" The Table . " Then she smiled proudly at Mum who responded with " You're really good at that part of fixing . "

When Dad came home from work , he had the chore of replacing each nut , bolt and washer that Sis handed to him in order of use . Then he gave each nut and extra twist with the wrench . " There ! That job is finished ," he announced . And Sharon roared with laughter . The habit of taking a wrench to give nuts an extra twist remained with my sister for the rest of her life .

Mum was amazed that neither the table or ironing board had fallen to pieces , but had stood in 'dry fit' despite the absence of fasteners . She quickly put into effect tasks that would keep my sister occupied and out of harm's way , while Mum went about her daily chores . Sis was put in charge of the button box . Her job was to sort the buttons by size and colour , then thread each group with a string to make finding buttons easier .

Another task was to be the official string and twine saver . The ball was kept in the table drawer where she could reach it at anytime .

Since Sis loved drawing things that she saw onto old boards and scrap paper , Mum made her the official pencil sharpener . In honor of the position , she was awarded a small pencil sharpener of her own . Mum had taken Sis into Kresge's after a doctor's appointment , where they picked out a small red pencil sharpener , a new pencil and a box of Crayola wax crayons in eight colours . These too were kept in the table drawer along with the balls of string ...easy for my sister to reach and easy to keep out of my mouth .

When my sister died some years ago , I felt a great need to gather things that would remind people never to forget her contributions to our family ; and to place them carefully into a small memory box . Sis had several containers of her treasures , tools and drawings that were important to her . I knew what I was looking for when I opened each container in search of memories . In every one of her treasure boxes , with no exception , there was a small ball of string or wool , a loop of small buttons and a very sharp pencil no more than an inch in length . These were the first three items that I placed into her memory box . 


Life In A Pink Fibro said...

What a beautiful post. I love the memory box idea. Is fitting that you keep such a box for a memory keeper like your sister.

Pattio said...


Thank you for your comment on my blog about Keiko. I have been visiting your blogs and love reading real Canadian history in your stories of your family. This post is so wonderful and such a tender memory of your sister.