So what does it mean?

“The body has memory.  The physical carriage hauls more than its weight.  The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness — all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic.”  Claudia Rankine, poetess

Finding Dr. von Heimburg’s document about my burn history was a stunner.  For months after, I racked my feeble brain, wondering how that document could have appeared in a basement box I’d long since forgotten. Just how did a critical document I had never seen before GET in that box?  Even more incredible was its likely fate — it was headed for the garbage had my god-sent friend Gloria not mysteriously saved it from extinction.

To my my way thinking, it was a miracle document.

After paying it due homage and digesting the very fact of its existence, I began to wonder what exactly it meant. First, in terms of my very survival as a pediatric burn patient. Second, in the memories it filled in and the gaps it left.

I turned to Dr. Robert Lehman, a noted St. Louis surgeon.  “Bob, can you help me interpret this report?” I asked, as I looked at its menu of debridement, dressing changes and skin grafting. “Oh, this was serious,” he replied with a knowing tilt of the head.  It was a classic Dr. Bob gesture.

The most medieval of the menu is, of course, debridement, a surgical procedure using forceps, scissors and other implements (of torture, I might add) to remove dead (or what they perhaps lovingly refer to as ‘necrotic’) tissue.  Skins grafts are then transplanted to the debrided site.  In reflex, I rubbed my thighs thinking about that — my thighs and rear end are my donor skin sites and still carry the precision scars of the scalpel, which cut perfect rectangles of skin from them.  Thinking about it made me queasy.

I asked then what was possibly the more interesting question, “Reading this, how do you assess my survival rate at the time?”

Of course, in the interim, I’d looked up the various measures of burn survival, like the R-Baux score which measures mortality in adult burn victims or the P-Baux score which measures mortality in pediatric cases.  These various measures include some combination of the percent of body surface burned + the patient’s age and often including a smoke inhalation component as well as sepsis status. It’s all sort of compellingly macabre and all, according to Dr. Bob, irrelevant for me.  In his pleasantly dead-pan manner he said, “I think, that at the time you were burned, the thinking was burn plus age.  Looks like there’s all sorts of analysis being done today that would never have applied back then.  I should say that the new analyses weren’t done then.”  Hmmm.

This is understandable.  Not only am I old (!) but at the time I was burned, 911 was not even in existence.  It was something of a cowboy world for burn care.  There were no burn units, no Baux scores, no longitudinal studies.  I didn’t even get to the hospital by ambulance.  By all accounts, my parents drove me to the hospital, hours after the accident.  That was standard operating procedure in the day.

Taking Dr. von Heimburg’s report, my survival score was 12% total body surface area burned (TBSA) + age of 2 = 14% mortality.  To me, those were fighting chances.  And then, there was always contradictory information out there — “In the 1960’s, the likelihood of survival was only 50% in children with burns covering 35 – 44% of the total body surface area (TBSA), and few patients with burn sizes exceeding 45% TBSA survived.  The average length of stay for the acutely burned child was 103 days,” writes Dr. David Herndon of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

It made me think about my length of stay — somewhere past the 60 day mark — as well as my other doctor, Dr. Thomas Lynn. There were no records available from him.  He died young, a stroke or heart attack according to his daughter and my high school friend Julie. Within two years of my accident, he was gone and I was referred to plastic surgeon Harold Hoops.  By the time I developed interest in finding records, Dr. Lynn’s clinic was long since closed, the records destroyed.

So here were the gaps again.  Confirmation on nine procedures.  But the story I remember put the count at about 20.  Dr. von Heimburg listed only one skin graft.  Looking at my leg, I know there were others. I see the cuts and feel the ridges It had to be the handiwork of Dr. Lynn, whose records are gone forever.  “The body has memory,” Claudia Rankine says. I know it to be true.

 

 

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Tinkerbell Returns

Tinkerbell Returns

Tinkerbell Returns

“We remember what we understand; we understand only what we pay attention to; we pay attention to what we want.” – Edward Bolles

In The Return of the Little Men, I was “reunited” with some miniature Disney characters given to me as a gift when I was burned.

It’s hard to describe my utter glee upon seeing what I endearingly called the ‘little men’. The thrill wasn’t based on the fact of the toys themselves but the reality that they not only existed but that I remembered them from childhood.

When you have a hazy memory and are not sure if it’s real or imagined, there is real joy in things that confirm you are not a crazy person, making up silly memories or doing what therapists call ‘creative reimagination‘.  For me, the trauma of being burned was like a bad dream sequence — foggy, missing pieces, unreal, as if I am holding my breath.  When I can connect with something real from the experience, I can breathe.   I am sure there is a psychological theory to explain why this is important to me but I don’t know what it is.  It is important and that’s enough for me.

I was so happy to reconnect with the little men that it didn’t even cross my mind whether all the pieces in the set had in fact ‘come home’.

“Oh, I found Tinkerbell,” was what Susie said to me, some time after she’d given me the set of little men.

Tinkerbell?  It had no context.

“I was looking in my old high school jewelry box for my claddagh ring and there she was.  Tinkerbell.  Right in that jewelry box.”

Tinkerbell?  Yes, Tinkerbell — she was the jewel of the set!  As a three year-old girl, Tinkerbell was my particular favorite.  For months as I was immobile, re-learning how to walk, I remember sitting on my bed and playing with all the little men.

When I went to collect Tinkerbell from Susie’s house, it was shocking how small she was.  She stood less than an inch tall, even with her blue wings fully extended.

I’m amazed at what turns up when you open the door to your memories.  Forty years later, Tinkerbell and her entourage of little men return from long-ago packed-up things and jewelry boxes from high school.  I keep them on my desk at home.  When you ask, you can receive.  The key is being open to what chooses to return.

“God Always Loves a Singer” – A Tribute to the Green Bay Boys Choir

St. John's Welcomes the Boys Choir

St. John’s Church Welcomes the Boys Choir on April 14, 2013 for a Mass of Celebration

When it came time for the final goodbye party for the Green Bay Boys Choir on Sunday, April 14th, I and all of my siblings — Kathleen, Susan, Jim and Michael — found their way to Green Bay to take part in it.  Our dad had been gone for nearly 20 years and it was hard not to feel grateful that a group of “boys” thought enough of him (and my mother) to invite us to participate.  There is a power that endures when good men stand together.

While it is true that None of Us Live the Life That He Had Imagined, there are times when an actual event surpasses all of your expectations.  The Compass, the official newspaper of the Green Bay Catholic Diocese, asked our family for an article about the event.  Here is a summary of that article:

The Original Green Bay Boys Choir:  40 Years of Song, Friendship and Fellowship

By Anne Gallagher

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,

Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

  • A favorite song of The Original Green Bay Boys Choir

In the beginning, they came together to sing.  In the end, they created a legacy of enduring friendship and fellowship.

It was 1972 and Green Bay stockbroker Bob Gallagher organized about 50 middle-aged men under the name, “The St. John’s Boys Choir” to sing at the 5:00 p.m. mass at St. John the Evangelist Church, located  in downtown Green Bay  and  the oldest continuous parish in Wisconsin.  Accompanied by organ or piano, they often punctuated songs like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,”,  “Oh Lord I am not Worthy,” and “God Bless America,” with the big sounds of cymbals and drums, which added both interest and drama to their singing.

“We’re a group of good guys who came together to sing, but mostly it was about the fellowship.  The choir became the way to cement our friendships,” said Ron DeLain, for 19 years the Choir’s final director with and formerly Green Bay City Clerk.  “We were really something special for our generation.”

Ron DeLain Leads the Boys Choir in their final song

Ron DeLain Leads the Boys Choir in their final song, “Let Their Be Peace on Earth” (Photo by Jim Gallagher)

After 40 years of singing together, the “boys” – now mostly in their 70s and 80s – formally retired in 2012.  Originally singing only at St. John’s, the Choir’s popularity grew and took the group to no less than 10 surrounding counties for performances at masses, weddings, funerals, anniversaries and Christmas programs.  To reflect their new-found growth, they changed their name to “The Original Green Bay Boys Choir.” They sang at veteran’s homes, nursing homes and Our Lady of Good Help Chapel.  As they tell the story, in the early days Bob Gallagher would rent a school bus for their out-of-town transportation and contract with the prisoners at the Green Bay Correctional Institute to create bus signage and banners.  With the blessing of the warden, Bob paid them in cigarettes, as was the custom in those days.

By the time they retired, 112 “boys” had filled the various choir lofts, garnering the attention of Green Bay’s Bishop, David L. Ricken.  “I am deeply humbled that so many of you participated in this choir over the forty-year period.  How wonderful that so many senior members of the Catholic Church continued to sing at the Masses throughout the years.  The sounds of hymns coming from the choir certainly brought much joy to each Mass,” wrote  Bishop Ricken in a tribute letter to the Choir, as they prepared to celebrate one last Mass together on April 14th, 2012 at St. John’s.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

“We offer our music to our God, our family and all who hear us.”

From the invitation to the Boys Choir Celebration Mass on April 14, 2013

_______________________________________________________________________

Forty or so men arrived that day at St. John’s, each dressed in a blue blazer with a red rose in his lapel.  They sat together at the front rows of church, sang the last hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and presided over the dedication of a framed commemorative plaque telling their story of service.  The plaque will hang in the parish hall.  With friends and family, they gathered after mass at the Rite Place at Bellevue Street and Allouez Avenue for lunch and friendship.

“You know, I had an affinity for choirs when I joined the group in 1993 or 1994.  I met my wife one day when I was singing in the Cathedral choir so I thought it might be fun to join this group,” said Norb Kalinoski, who served as Choir Director for about a year and was a high school principal during much of his working career. He heard of the choir when it formed in 1972 but had just accepted a job in Shiocton.  When he returned to Green Bay years later, one of his first orders of business was joining up with the Choir. “The driving force of the group was social.  We were not the world’s greatest singers by the way, but we got by.  When you sing, you are happy.”

Liturgical and classical musician Lester Bleser Jr. joined the Choir as its accompanist (organ and piano) about 20 years ago.  “The choir did the music I enjoyed and at the time there was an opening for an accompanist,” he recalls.  The group’s only female member – an organist – was moving to another parish.  Les joined in a heartbeat.  “I enjoyed the camaraderie.  We got together once or twice a month to socialize and I liked the all-male environment.  Plus we were a unique group – there are very few all-male choirs.  We were really one of a kind for our time.”

Boys Choir Members Sing from the front rows under Ron DeLain's direction

Boys Choir members sing from the front rows under Ron DeLain’s direction.  Traditionally, they sang from the choir loft at the back of church. (Photo by Judy Lepak)

Choir members came from all walks of life.  There were educators and social workers, doctors and lawyers and judges, public officials and business owners.  At one time, the local sheriff – Norb Froelich – served as the Choir organist.  “It didn’t matter what you did.  We came together for a common purpose and shared a love of God, Church and family,” said Dr. Jim Falk, the Choir’s final president and a member for 40 years.

“Oh, they came together to give praise and glory to God with their voices and wasn’t that a good enough reason to be together!” added Gwen Falk, Jim’s wife of many years and the mother of their 15 children.  “Plus, the truth is that Bob Gallagher made it fun to be a Catholic.”

If there was one story about Bob Gallagher at the Choir’s luncheon, there were 100.  Bob, the original Choir director, died after a lengthy illness in 1993.  “If you ask me my favorite memory of the Choir, it is Bob Gallagher.  My life changed dramatically because of that man.  He had the ability to join us together and make us do things we never would have done otherwise,” said Jack Smith, now retired but for many years a parole and probation officer at the local Green Bay prison.  “You know, I’m not even a Catholic and when I joined this Choir I wasn’t the only non-Catholic.  Bob brought us all together as friends.”

He told the story of Bob Gallagher’s run for an officer position at Green Bay’s Junior Chamber of Commerce, or JC’s.  With a hand-lettered sign, “Vote Gallagher – Don’t be a Chicken,” Bob gave an election speech, and then released about a dozen live chickens into the crowd.  “Well, people were howling with laughter.  Bob just had a way with people and a way of creating fun.  I owe that man so much,” Jack Smith said, explaining that he wasn’t really a singer but with Bob’s urging, regularly sang before as many as 400 people.

As Bob’s illness progressed in the late 1980s, Jack said Bob developed a great difficulty with speech.  “It was hard to understand him at times, you really had to work at it,” he said.  “But you know, we would take Bob up to the choir loft in his wheelchair and when he sang, every word came out clear as a bell.”

As Choir members and their families finished their meals, Ron DeLain rose to say a formal goodbye. “It was so great to be part of this group because of what we represented and who we are.  I hate to say goodbye.  I don’t want to say that we are finished.  So until we meet again, we’ll see you all again soon,” he said.

Jim Falk stood beside him and said, “God always loves a singer.  If we have an encore, that’s going to be up to the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the remaining members of the Boys Choir pose for a photo at St. John's Church

Some of the remaining members of the Boys Choir pose for a photo at St. John’s Church on April 14, 2013 (Photo by Jim Gallagher)

ORIGINAL GREEN BAY BOYS CHOIR MEMBERSHIP 1972-2012

FOUNDER

Bob Gallagher

DIRECTORS

Ron DeLain

Bob Gallagher

Norb Kalinoski

Rollie Macco

Bernie Schlafke

ORGANISTS

Lester Blaser, Jr.

Norb Froelich

Ms. Val Niraz

Mert Mueller

David Seering

MEMBERS

Jim Baenen

Don Bailey

Arnie Beimborn

Dick Bender

Ron Benzschaewl

Ray Berker

Milt Besanson

Dan Boettge

Jim Brawner

Carl Burkel

Keith Campbell

Jerry Chapman

Tom Coe

Harry Cygan

Larry De Groot

Jim De France

Bob Delacensarie

Bernie Delwiche

Steve Deneys

Gary Des Jardins

John Dolan

Dan Drossart

Steve Everson

Jim Falk

John Finco

Bob Flatley

Tony Frederichs

Bill Galvin

Ray Gantenbein

Larry Goeben

John Harrington

Dick Heardon

Leon Herlache

Cal Hirn

Gil Hoffman

Brian Holloway

Bud Huebner

Ralph Jenquin

Chuck Jones

Ray Josephs

Bob Juley

John Kafka

Dick Kalishek

Ed Kaufman

Tom Kiedinger

Peter Kiefer

Jeff Klarkowski

Rick Knaus

Larry Kust

Jerry Lemere

Carl Lewis

Chet Lewicki

Ron Liebergen

John Loritz

Tom Lukas

Joe Mader

John Mancheski

Ardo Mariucci

Ken Martin

Ken Mathys

Don Melberg

Bill Mielke

Tom Mielke

Francis Moes

Mark Monfort

Dean Mraz

Roland Murphy

Roger Navarre

Jim Neuser

Leo Nikowitz

Ivan Nowak

Ken Payette

Fred Pergande

Bill Phillips

John Prosser

Bud Pytlak

Pat Reed

Bill Ricker

Maury Robinson

Bob Rockstroh

Pat Sands

Jim Schiebel

Greg Schmitt

Ken Schuldes

Urban Schumacher

Bob Seering

Al Siudzinski

Del Skelton

Jack Smith

John Smits

Ron Spielbauer

John Thornton

Bernie Van Camp

John Van Rens

Jim Vande Walle

Don Van Straten

Earl Verheyden

Paul Wagner

Len Walczyk

Tom Washienko

Mike Wichowski

Larry Younk

The Return of the Little Men

 

Little Men

Little Men

“Little men,” Kathleen said.

“Little what?” I asked.  “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

As part of my research to learn what happened when I burned my leg at age two, I was asking friends, relatives, siblings – anyone really – what they remembered about the accident.  My sister Kathleen, four years older than me, was a solid bet.  She would have been six years old at the time and in kindergarten.  Where I always questioned my memories from the time as a two and then three-year old in the hospital, all the research on memory told me that she would have a far more accurate fact set from the time.

But when I asked her to provide her memories, she quickly and curtly responded.  “Little men.  That’s what I remember.”

I asked again, “What are you talking about?  I don’t know anything about little men.”

She tossed back her head in what looked like a gesture filled half with amusement and half with frustration.  “You got all these presents and you got these little men.  I think Judy Schumacher gave them to you.  Don’t you remember?  They came in individual boxes and were all connected on a long blue ribbon.  We opened them in mom’s closet when you were home from the hospital.”

Like a Polaroid picture, the little men developed right in front of me.  Of course I remembered.  It was a full set of miniature Disney characters – everyone from Snow White to Captain Hook.

“My favorite was Captain Hook,” she said as if she could see them as clearly as they were appearing one-by-one in my mind’s eye.  I loved those little men and remembered playing with them.  They were a child’s delight and I had forgotten about them for many years.

I had even forgotten about the conversation with Kathleen until last weekend.  We were at winter “Gallagher weekend,” our semi-annual family get-together with siblings and kids.  Kathleen and Susan, my other sister, met with me on Saturday night after most of the kids had gone to bed to give me some gifts for my December birthday.

It was there that Susan handed me that small white box.  I opened the lid and drew back the paper to reveal eight little men.  At first, I did not know what they were.  They seemed so small.  I pulled them out one by one.  “Are these the little men?” I asked in disbelief.

“They couldn’t be,” Kathleen said.

“Yes, they are,” Susan said.

“Where did you get them?” I couldn’t help but ask.  More than 40 years had passed.

“I found them in a box at my house,” Susan said as if it was the most normal thing possible.

Found them in a box at my house?  How does anyone find anything 40 plus years later?  How do you find something you weren’t looking for?  The questions flooded through faster than I could process them.

I picked up Alice in Wonderland, with her white tights, flowing blond hair and bright blue dress.  She was real.  They all were real.

“What happened to the other ones?” Kathleen asked.

“I honestly don’t know,” Susan said.  “I remember we played with them a lot Annie.  Maybe we divided them up at some point and I took these.  Maybe you lost the other ones.”

I didn’t know.  It didn’t really matter.

What mattered right now was that another piece of the puzzle had fallen in place.  Another memory I had in my mind, one that I wasn’t sure if I created or if it was real, had revealed itself in eight tiny little men.

I imagine that for more people it’s okay if their childhood memories are bit fuzzy.  For me, I look at my burned leg many days and am not sure if I remember being there when it happened.  I am not sure if I made up my memories or if what I remember is real.  I am sure there is a psychological theory to explain why it’s so important to me to know if I actually remember the pictures left in my head or if I merely created them based on stories I heard over the years.

I so want the pictures to be real because whatever the storyline, the burns are real.  Was the accident so real that I had to manufacture a story and pictures to protect myself?  Or, did it happen as I remember – everything in slow motion and me watching my story unfold, not feeling any pain.  I was not in my body as it happened but watching from above the kitchen stove, wondering if my mother would come in time to rescue me, if I would drop back in my body or just keep floating upward.

Seeing the little men – Alice in Wonderland, Jiminy Cricket, Captain Hook, Gepetto and four of the seven dwarfs – was an unexpected confirmation.  That simple confirmation created a healing connection for me.

I did remember.  It was okay.  The images in my mind were right, they made sense.  I didn’t have to worry about them anymore.

 

Silly Good Writing

St. Joseph Academy Green bay WI picture

When I think of writing, stories always filled my pen. 

By 5th grade, my teacher Mrs. Brunmeier told me my stories were too avant garde for class distribution.  In 8th grade, I wrote the definitive, imaginative story of our class in a final report format.  In high school, I became the editor of the paper and won a first-place award in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s contest for writing, an expose of the National Honor Society.  And the list goes on.

But the stories I remember best were the ones I wrote with my friend Donna. 

As high school students at all-girls St. Joseph’s Academy (now Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, www.notredameacademy.com), we yearned for life experiences yet to come.  We dreamed of prom dates and life successes far into the future. We wondered about the diminishing quantity of nuns who taught us and what would happen to their order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, as more lay teachers entered the fray.  We imagined life in big cities and created imaginary all-knowing and all-powerful alter-egos while suffering through the realities of study hall.

For all those things that didn’t yet exist, we’d pen hand-written stories instead of dissecting frogs in biology class to make these lofty dreams come true.  Of course, we’d write each other as main characters and every wish, however small, would come true.  Oh, there would be conflict but ultimately we’d emerge the victors. 

 When Donna had a crush on J, I created a lengthy narrative for her full-bodied hair flowing in the wind, her wily charms on fire, and her witticisms dazzling a high school party crowd.  J could only hope but to fall prey to her charms.  Twenty pages later, Donna would have her man. 

A week later she’d hold the pen, my success held in limbo by her imagination.  Would I crush an opponent or merely lob an ace every serve in a tennis game?  It mattered not.  We would persevere and win.  We’d howl in delight, knowing we’d always be the heroines of our own stories.

Donna moved to New York.  I moved to Chicago.  When I’d least expect it, a hand-written note would appear in my mail, continuing my high school story line.  No explanation needed.  It spurred me to continue her tale, jetting her from country to country, adventure to adventure. 

When I found an old letter buried in a tangle of papers the other day, I quickly picked up my pen ready to resume the quest.  Donna died of colon cancer several years back.   Silly good writing had put her in a multi-million dollar home, lavished her with furs and jewels, and made her insanely happy.  She would have been pleased.

Freezers and Fires

My sister Susie sent me a short note the other day to let me know that Tom Noonan was dead.  He was 71.  From her perch in Green Bay, Susie sends me the local news from time to time as well as the information about the people we knew while growing up who have passed on to the great beyond.  The news about Tom though was unusual.  At first, my mind drew a blank and I didn’t even remember who he was.  Then, slowly and with a sigh, I realized I knew quite a bit about him.

In our teenage years, dad had a rule about working, which was that his kids could and should work but said employment had to be within walking distance from our house.   The eldest, Kiki, got the first job at Hardee’s (www.hardees.com), then Susie did and then I did.  We took orders and flipped burgers in our brown-and-orange uniforms and more importantly, stayed within a four-block radius of home. During my tenure at Hardee’s, I was quickly promoted from order-taker to burger-cooker and that is when I ran squarely in to Tom Noonan.

Tom was the owner-operator of the Monroe Street franchise where we worked.  It was ironic that we worked at a greasy fast food place with an even greasier owner. As far as we saw, Tom didn’t work much, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and more than certainly was having a torrid affair with his wife’s sister, who also worked at Hardee’s.  It was scum all around.

And so it should not have been a surprise that day when I went into the stainless steel meat cooler to grab some frozen patties and I felt those greasy arms grab me from behind.  I shrieked and dropped the hamburger patties to the floor.  “What the…..?” came my stunned response as I recoiled to the far end of the freezer room.  He laughed and exhaled a puff of cold air.  “Yeah, we couldn’t have done it in here or we would have melted the patties,” he said as he walked out of the cooler.  Enraged and embarrassed, I grabbed my time card, punched out and briskly walked the four blocks home. 

When dad came home from work that night I told him the story.  “And you won’t be going back to work at Hardee’s again,” he said calmly.  Tom’s fate was sealed. 

Later that night, dad pulled out his electric typewriter and typed off the first of many missives to the President of Hardee’s Food Systems, Inc., complaining about Tom Noonan in general and being sure to make mention of time when there was garbage outside the facility or a light was missing from the bright orange Hardee’s marquee sign.  The letters didn’t stop until Tom either found employment elsewhere or was told to seek other employ.  Dad’s letter-writing campaign lasted about two years but I imagine he would have continued for 10 or more if that’s what it would have required to get results.

What’s interesting to me in thinking about Tom Noonan’s death is how dad went to bat for me.  In all the years he lived, dad never once talked about my burn accident or injury.  Yet I always knew he was on my side.  When I think about resolution, I’ve come to understand that people do the best they can.  With people we love, we accept what they are able to give us.  In my case, I wish he would have been more forthcoming during life because it would have helped me decode my own mysteries.

What do you think?

On the topic of Tom Noonan, my sense is he died of lung cancer although the obituary didn’t give a cause of death.  There was a picture accompanying the obit and Tom looked greasy as ever.

Where Does Memory Come From?

My heart skipped an extra beat when I was talking to my sister Susie this holiday to wish her season’s greetings.  At the same time, I was thinking how to finesse a segue to her memories of the day I burned my leg, which I realized was probably impossible to do so subtly.  And so I just asked, “On another note, Susie I have this memory of you telling me that you smelled me burning and told mom to go upstairs and check on me.  Is that at all accurate?”  Susie, the consummate Ph.D. in psychology, paused as she would normally do to process the question and her response.  “I have to tell you Annie,” she said and hesitated a bit.  “I don’t remember a thing about that day.”  My mind swirled.  How could that be?  The story I long remembered was that she and I were playing downstairs in the basement.  Mom was with us just feet away, ironing and talking on the phone.  I saw that image clear as day.  How could Susie, who was a whole 18 months older than me, not have any recollection? 

“How old would I have been then,” she asked. 

“You would have been 3 and a half.  I was just a couple weeks shy of two.”

“Well, I guess that’s why I don’t remember anything.  I was so young.  I’m sorry.  Tell me what you remember.”  And so I did, my memory being much more vivid than what she knew or recalled, even though I know she was there with me that day.

Where exactly does memory come from?  How can we recollect something so clearly that someone else hasn’t registered?  It’s one of those mysteries that has to be accepted and is absolutely befuddling.  I so wanted confirmation of my memory and at the same time, know that when you embark on a journey to uncover the past, you simply have to accept whatever it is that you find.