I can only recall one Christmas from my childhood. I was 6 years old and I was beaming with the holiday spirit. I don’t remember much else up to the age of 15. People tell me stories, but they might as well be telling me about someone else’s life. Because of this, I sometimes feel that I never had a childhood. All I know is that I cannot recall two thirds of my life. I have learned to be okay with this fact and once in a while, when I really dig deep, I find another distant memory that I can add to my odd collection. This is comforting, because then I know that it’s all in there somewhere and bit by bit I’m discovering my life.
I have not always been okay with my lack of memory; it used to create an unsettling lack of self. I didn’t know who I was, because I didn’t have the tools to deal with all the bad things in my childhood. And in my respected, academic family it was preferred to sweep it under the carpet and uphold the illusion of a well-functioning family. But Christmas was a glistening sham, where we could pretend that alcoholism and violence were strangers to us. Therefore I packed all the bad, but also the good, memories away. And I lost myself in the process. I spent my teenage years trying to piece a person together. Not on a blank slate, but on a weird, dark, wobbly slate that I couldn’t read or understand. It was like starting from scratch, but having to build a hopefully stable person on unstable ground.
At the age of 20, I finally went to my first therapist to deal with the dark wobbly thing that followed me around. It was like living above an abyss that I was afraid I would fall into. I had found some peace with my missing memory, but still struggle with the consequences. However, now I was confronted with questions to which I didn’t have any answers. I had no idea who I was or where I came from and it was terrifying to let someone onto this secret. But it was also very hard to explain. How could I know so little about my own life?
Now I have created a mess of a collage from stories and pictures and unearthed memories. I build myself and my life every day and I create new memories that I try my hardest to hold onto. Mostly I rely on feelings. I may not remember the details, but I remember the feelings from the other Christmases.
And for now that’s good enough.