Memory and Shadow; Which is Which?

I have  been thinking about memory lately.

I have been pondering my own sense of it

and looking back at how my mother’s memory

was so deeply and irreversibly damaged by her life time of alcoholism.

I have been thinking about memory lately.

I have been thinking about how it plays like shadow

flitting here



Not a thing in itself but some hint at the thing.

Memory and Shadow;

which is which?

I look at the boxes of family photos;

camping trips, beautiful little girls in matching dresses

and pixie hair cuts.

 large eyes



a hint of a smile.

I can not for the life of me figure out who took these photos.


No. She did not do that kind of thing


I remember Diane.

I found a photo of her;

a beehive hairdo and a huge grin

I remember the go-go boots she bought us

In the photo we are cuddling with her under a camping blanket.

we are smiling   maybe laughing

and so is she,


She was not  shadow;

she was real and she was in my life and I am smiling.

Diane took care of us.

She was there all the time, on trips to LA to visit my grandparents,

on camping trips, at home.

Diane was at home with us

so was Mommy.

Diane took care of us

Diane may have raised me

for all I know.

The photo brings the shadow into focus.

Diane was there for me.

Diane was our ‘babysitter’

and Diane was there all the time.


While my mom was home?

I am piecing it all together.

My mother was on Valium.

My dad was on the road.

For a time

we had Diane

while mommy was on Valium.

For awhile we smiled and laughed



Where is she now?

How did she enter our lives?

Diane was there before social services was called

before too many broken bones were shattered.


so much was shattered

but not on Diane’s watch.

We moved away without Diane.

She ceases to exist in the box of photos.

Memory is Shadow

and Shadow can be as real

as the thing it represents.

I have the photo.

I have the memory entering of go-go  boots and laughter

I had Diane.

Peace,  Jen


No one is left who can tell me who Diane was. I can not find a last name anywhere;

and yet her photos prove she was there for us for a time.

I find I remember bits and pieces of her.

My parents were both raised by ‘housekeepers’.

My mother because her mother had died;

My father because his mother had a career.

I do not have their names either.

No one is left to tell me the names of the women who raised my family.

If your parents are still alive;

Ask them the questions you wonder about

write down what you know now, because one day,

one day,

it might all become Shadow.

~ by Step On a Crack on March 26, 2012.

18 Responses to “Memory and Shadow; Which is Which?”

  1. I know what you mean as I have those shadows too. I think mostly because of the moves we made. So much I don’t recall. My brother seems to remember more than I. This was good Jen, (as always) Asking while you can. Yes. Why did I wait until it was too late? I guess because it never seemed that time would come. I’m relating to this post a lot.


    • Dear Debby,

      I have not been here for awhile and I am SO happy to see YOU HERE!

      You have been in my thoughts and prayers. I hope all is well with you and your journey…

      ME TOO! I always thought I would have TIME to ask my dad everything I need to know. I now need to have letters in German translated to find out what I need to know. I know only bits will be there. Then there is all the stuff you think you will be sure to remember. You just don’t.

      I hope people will think about it. Doing interviews of those we love or are connected to while they are alive could be an important and loving thing to do.

      My poor kid. He is going to get an earful and notebooks full of info!

      I am glad you can relate and I am sorry you can relate. Connection is like that ehh?

      Love to you, Jen


    • OH!!!

      You can still interview your brother! There is that…

      We moved a lot too. That does impact my connection to memory and place (or lack thereof I suppose…)


  2. good post. interesting to see the multi generational practice of letting others raise the children. yes, ask the questions. my mom has alzheimers, so she knows nothing.


    • I am so sorry your mom lives with dementia. I am so sorry for you that your mom has dementia.

      Until I wrote this post it had never occurred to me that both my parents had nannies and in some ways so did I. Weird what writing brings things forth….


  3. Memory and shadow – the cerebral and the physical – keeps us whole, makes sense of our sometimes senseless lives. Treasure them both…true companions both – never leaving us, never demanding, but always there…for us, they are “us”. Luv and peace, Eric


  4. Wonderful post. Good advice.

    I have tried for years to make sense of my past and we only moved once! My high school and junior high boy friends have helped me put some pieces together. I am so sorry that you have no way to find Diane. What a loss.

    Yet more reasons to be the Mom you never had. I admire you for the resolve that you have shown and for stopping that cycle of selfishness. How do you even know how to pull it off? I guess the heart knows?


  5. Oh Jen, i’m having a bad “mom” day. I feel like i’m “in” the shadows myself. The pieces are jumbled … there are spaces in time that i don’t remember mom doing anything … or that she wasn’t around, but she was. I don’t know what she was doing. She was depressed, so she may have been sleeping. Just hard stuff.

    I’m happy to hear about Diane. Thank God there are a few pictures of fun stuff. I bet your dad took the pictures … or maybe a friend of Diane’s. XO mel


  6. yea for Diane! and yes, I agree, ask questions while you can. For your own sake, and for your kids.


    • Hey there!

      I have seen books in stores with questions printed out: What was your first pet? Who was your first love?

      etc etc

      I wish I had a few of those filled out by those I have loved and lost. Makes me realize that I better give a few as gifts while there is still time….
      Write one too I guess ehh?

      Mortality. We all need to face it.

      XO Jen


  7. oh by the way, NICE go-go boots!


    • Aren’t they! I wanted to post the photo itself of my sis and I BUT I don’t have permission. We are SO cute and I remember Diane gave not just go-go boots (as if that were not enough..) but really mod outfits that looked like we could be back up singers for the Beatles.

      I would LOVE those boots today (In black of course….)


  8. What a great post! You present a table full of food for the soul in your poem.


    • Angela,

      First I need to thank you again for the beautiful experience of communal world poetry writing! What an amazing experience and what a gift! I will NEVER forget what you have done. Never.

      Thank you for being here and for your very kind words!

      Peace, Jen


  9. Hey friend..I think this is a journey we all need to go on to help understand why??? I went on it and am still on it. And it has helped me understand, the forgiveness came much later. I am glad you have your photos and also those letters. Maybe they will lead to others that will shed more light. 🙂


    • Maiya,

      Your words came at just the right moment. It is comforting to know that you have walked this path and that forgiveness came. I needed to hear that at THIS Moment.

      Bless you!


  10. Thanks to your post, i’m blindsided by insight! i forgot some memories are memories of good times! What does that say about me that remembering is associated with remembering bad times?


    • Dear Al!

      So good to see you! I am with you my friend. Weird isn’t it? The rotten memories seem to nudge the good stuff out. How and Why my brain would choose that is beyond me (I hate my brain sometimes. I honestly wonder if it has it out for me) Paranoid? A great man once told me “There is no such thing as paranoia” He was right in one sense: there is a grain of truth in it. MY brain is NOT my buddy. My Heart is. I need to find the direct line to my Heart and let it run the show! Your last post reminds me of this. (I loved that by the way)

      thoughts vs. emotions

      I should run with my emotions more often. hey, hand over that box of kleenex will ya? Happiness makes me cry more than sadness.

      Thank you for being here!

      XO Jen


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