My memories with my mother span through my childhood and young adulthood, with the exception of 1976. That year, and anything to do with it, is not accessible to me. I’m sure there’s a reason, but that reason as well is hidden from me.
I am, in many ways, a spitting image of my mother. We share many physical attributes. We have an almost identical body in size and form (though my mother was blessed with rounder, fuller breasts than mine) and our facial features, as our friends and relatives keep saying, are ‘ridiculously the same. Other than the age difference, you could have been identical twins.’ Looking at my mother’s old black & whites is like living a life I never had. Here is me, wearing clothes I never had, leaning against a boyfriend I never met, giggling with friends I never known. The experience is both frightening and exhilarating.
Due to this utter resemblance, it came about that a special bond was formed between my mother and I. Not to belittle the wonderfulness of the relationships my mother has with each of my siblings, but when you look so much alike (so much that when old friends of my mother run into to me, on the street, or in a store, they always go through this first moment of awe, when they stare at me, usually a hand is being brought to their lips, and I see their pasts flash through souls, they are re-living lost moments) it does something to the way you conceive the other person, your other self. This bond of ours is experienced differently by each of us. As my mother is forced to coexist with her younger self, the reminisce, to miss, to feel and see the years that have passed, I am living with my older self, witnessing the end results of my deeds, the withering of my body, the longing to the past.
When I ask my mother about 1976 she dismisses me with an agitated hand gesture, one I’ve recently noticed I’m beginning to adopt. Again with this? She scolds me. You’re just imaging things, how can a year disappear? I support my case by providing specific memories from 1975 (the family went on a one week vacation to lake Deverachi where we kids learned to fish for the very first time) and from 1977 (when I joined the local basketball team and broke my leg on my very first game) and then saying, And mom, 1976 - when was that? But she never caves in, nor does she try to plant false memories in me. She knows I know, and I know that whatever it is, she feels it is in my best interest not to know.
I tried looking into my mother’s life for clues about mine. I thought that if we looked the same, we might just had similar experiences in our lives. 1976 was the year I began as a six-year-old, and finished as a seven-year-old. I started asking my mother about her experiences during that time of her life, around her seventh birthday. It didn’t take her long to figure out what I was after and soon enough her answers resulted to hush-hushing me about this silly curiosity of mine. When I was about fourteen I really got into science fiction books, and at that period of my life I suspected that I died from a terrible disease and that my parents cloned a new me from my mother. My geek-friends loved it, and we spent ours developing the sci-fi version of my life. By the time I turned sixteen I didn’t even say hello to these geeks on the school’s hallways.
Still, my memories with my mother are as precious to me as memories can be. I continue to accumulate more memories with her every day, and I dread the day this would stop. My lost 1976 I came to accept, to take it as it is in old newspapers, lo-fi TV shows, and grainy movies. I sometimes fantasize about a post-mortem letter from my mother, a letter that will not only explain her reasoning for denying me her acknowledgment, an acknowledgement she knows I am aching for, but will also open the door for me, allowing me to walk through it to that lost year of my life. But the thought of reading a letter from my mother when she is no longer with me saddens me too much so I just let it go.