It has occurred to me that there is a lot involved in the nature of secrets. The last couple of months, when I’m waiting for sleep at night, I’ve been doing a sort of mind exercise.

It occurred to me, after I wrote a post about a winding dirt road, some time ago, that I have no memory of anything inside the house I grew up in.

So before I fall asleep at night, I close my eyes and try my best to go back to that time.

Mostly what I recall is lying in a bed at night with the windows open. The summer months of my youth. Staring at the outdoors through the tiny squares of a window screen. I can see a few things outside, nebulous shapes that flicker in and out of my memory.

So in turn I’ve tried to place myself outside that screen to peer inside. I envision placing comma-shaped hands up to my eyes to stare into the darkness within.

This morning it occurred to me why it might be that I can’t see inside. The best answer I can come up with anyway. Because, who doesn’t remember something? A couch, a bed, a kitchen table???

Maybe it’s because there were secrets inside that house. So many secrets. And when I’d ask my great-grandmother questions about my parentage, I’d be met with stiff disapproval and silence.

Gradually over the years little tidbits filtered in. This and that. Snatches of overheard conversations. Enough to sort of patch a story together here and there.

Maybe secrets do that. Throw a cover over every surface, hiding what is underneath, so that you can’t see anything but shadows and shapes. Like an empty summer house left vacant for winter, waiting for its occupants to return.

Maybe that’s just the nature of secrets. Of things left unsaid.

They become buried by so much time that what remains of the truth hangs like tiny dust motes in the air. Seen only in brief shafts of sunlight. And then put back in their grave.


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  1. Since the last word of your post is “grave,” it seems like you are indicating that when you were a child you felt buried or suppressed by the burden of the secrets kept by the older family members. That is a heavy weight to carry, but now It’s wonderful that you have given yourself the freedom to have colors and objects in your life that you can enjoy.

  2. Brenda, you truly have a gift for writing. Your words draw a person into the story. As a child, I too can remember my grandparents house as you portrayed in a previous story about living a simper life. Just as you talked about the black and white TV with one channel that went to sleep at night, the heavy black telephone, and the sticky spider webs in the cellar when you were sent to get a jar of peaches, I too began to recall those things from my childhood when we would visit my greatgrandparents house . I found it to be a good thing to able to reflect on the things that were, but will not be again. Perhaps, the things you cannot remember about the house you grew up in related to times to when you questioned your grandmother about your parentage. I love your stories about those simpler times and would love to read more of your stories like that. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. Like Karen above, you weren’t on my blogroll anymore either. Just realized it tonight because I’ve been reading your posts through my gmail instead of from my blog, having ignored my blog during a break. Already fixed that though because I thought it might have something to do with you having made a change in your blog recently.

    Now that I think back on it, when I’ve read the posts you write so beautifully about your youth, many of your thoughts were about being outdoors. Does it seem as if you have many more memories of being outside, in nature? But I remember your writing about food and meal preparation by your grandmother, I think. So is it activities you remember more than actual furnishings? I remember vividly all of our houses from the time I was 3 years old, the rooms, especially the kitchens and my bedrooms.

    I know you’ve written often about your dreams and I’ve always been curious about a recurring dream I’ve had, off and on, through my adult life. I dream about living in a house, sometimes my own but often a strange one that is mine during the dream. And in each one I discover a new room, one unknown to me before and it’s such a happy thing to discover it. I hate waking up from it, wish it were longer.

    Isn’t that strange? I haven’t researched it to see what it could mean, being afraid I’d learn something unpleasant because I really like having them and don’t want them to disappear.

    Brenda, my husband had a very unhappy period as a young child where he and his brother were left during the week with a woman who had been hired to care for them as their mother was a divorced parent who had to work long hours in a cafe to support them. His memories of that woman are not pleasant, nothing abusive, just neglect and meanness. He never asked his mother about that time when she was alive and he and his brother never discuss it. It bothers him to this day.

    I think we women are better at talking about these things.

  4. I’m glad most families are more open now than in generations past. So many secrets that were kept in my family didn’t need to be secrets at all. But that’s my 2018 perspective, of course…

  5. Beautiful writing, Brenda. And perhaps…. the not remembering is a form of protection.

    For some reason your blog no longer updates on my blogroll, I thought you hadn’t written for a while.. glad to see you are just fine.

    1. If you take me off your blog roll, then go to my blog, copy the URL at the top and add me back, it will update.

  6. Can you go back?
    I had recurring dreams about a dark, mysterious place–not scary, just dark and mysterious. And another place–very bright, the sun streaming through big windows and making patterns on the floor. I took a trip to a place I where I lived a decade earlier and realized the dark place was a beloved seed store and the bright place was the terrace of a favorite café. Sometimes those images you see in your dreams are real, and going back, seeing the real thing, helps your soul to stop searching.
    There was a time when it was considered best to know less. Sorry you had to live through that.

  7. It does seem unusual that you would not remember anything inside the house. Perhaps this was not a happy safe place for you and this might be a reason you enjoy creating your personal happy cozy haven. Maybe the outside world that existed through the screen was an escape. I did think the reply written by Trisha Lee might provide some insight or explanation to not being able to recall any details.

    You have a wonderful gift for expressing your feelings through words; I too would love to read a book written by you.

  8. I do not know how old you were at the time. But I know I have huge blocks of time I cannot remember. From some of the things I do remember up to that point I know it is best that I do not remember. I work toward making my days bright and fun like you do with color, and flowers. I am still purging my life of a lot of things. I don’t want to remember things that are sad or that I can’t fix now. Like you I am doing my best to make my days happy as I move forward. Blessings to you as you color your own days with the love of life.

  9. It is kind of sad that you have no memories of that time—not only do you not have memories of BAD times but you have no memories of GOOD times, either. Maybe that means that you were just living in some sort of limbo state at that time—being protected inside those walls from things that could have really screwed with your inner self. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as you probe deeper into your memory bank. xo Diana

  10. I agree with Bonnie, if you ever do write a book I definitely want to read it. I remember the house I grew up in, it was a semi detached and usually during the week especially in the winter we would stay in the kitchen because that was they only warm room. There was a bathroom upstairs and when we wanted to go we had to pass thru the darkened living room to the dark hallway beyond to climb the stairs, I just hated that, even to this day I hate being in the dark. I don’t know why we didn’t switch on any lights. I must ask my sister about that.

  11. I loved how you described your emotions and the loss of memories of your growing up years, and the secrets. You have a wonderful way with words, and I would love to read a book of yours, if ever you decide to write one..(which you should)

    1. Ah thanks, but it’s all I can do to post on a blog every day. Thinking of maybe writing short stories. Not sure.

  12. What emotions come to you as you peer into the window? Perhaps you can best gauge what waits within by what you feel just looking through the screen. The screen may be your veil or protection from painful memories best left to the dusty recesses of your mind. Do you need to remember?

    1. The only birthday I remember was when a grade school friend threw a surprise birthday party for me. It was the only birthday party I had. And I was so embarrassed, being the center of attention, that I never wanted another one. Aside from that, no, I don’t recall any.

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