A Reason to Write: Shaking Loose a Memory

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI grabbed my small “traveling” notebook out of my purse on a recent morning, intent on jotting down some thoughts about the glowing horizon and the full moon peeking through the trees, silvering the landscape. After scribbling down my disconnected thoughts, I idly flipped through a few pages and stopped at this old entry:

5-13-17

ululating
Sammy!
1st grad? relief?
petite woman
up on seats–piercing whistle
colors-pageantry
shaking U-Maine T-shirt

What was this? I wondered. When was this?  1st grad or was it 1st grade? Who’s Sammy? I looked again at the date, hoping it would help me place these words in some sort of context.

5-13-17

Ok, I reasoned, it must have been first grad, not first grade, because that’s the date when Addie graduated. I slipped back between the words, rereading them, slowly trying to shake a dim memory loose. I read the words again and again.

Finally, bit by bit, I remembered.

We sat on the hard bleacher seating, watching the graduating class finally enter the arena to a swell of triumphant music and thunderous applause. Suddenly, a woman’s ululation rose strong and piercing about the cacophony of the crowd, like a warrior’s triumphant cry, followed by an ear-shattering, heartfelt cry, “Sammy!”

I turned to look, and saw her, a petite woman, standing on her arena seat.  In her hands she held a U Maine T-shirt and shook it vigorously, over and over, high above her head. Dropping one hand to her mouth, she then let loose with a penetrating whistle, hawk-like, shrill and rising clear and high above the crowd’s noise. I couldn’t see her face or the shirt clearly from where I sat, but I could feel her raw emotion. The moment captured me. I grabbed my notebook and wrote down these few words:

5-13-17

ululating
Sammy!
1st grad? relief?
petite woman
up on seats–piercing whistle
colors-pageantry
shaking U-Maine T-shirt

Now I remember how I had wondered at the vibrant intensity of those calls. Was the unknown Sammy the first graduate in the family? Or was she deeply relieved to see her struggling child graduate? Was she even his mother? A variety of scenarios had run through my mind, fueled by the rippling waves of that sonic boom of emotion.

Now that I remember, I feel anew the impact of that ululating cry and the “Sammy!” that followed it. I hear it echo in my mind. If not for having jotted in my traveling journal, I never would have thought about it again.

6 thoughts on “A Reason to Write: Shaking Loose a Memory

  1. Two posts in a row I am reading about finding “old words”. I should review my notebooks more- I rarely do. I loved how the story came back to you and you still had questions about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I seldom look back at my old notebooks, but often find surprises when I do. I’d like to make this more of a part of my writing practice. Let me know if you figure out a way to do so!

      Like

  2. margaretsmn says:

    I do this sometimes, thumb back through a journal and question what I wrote. But I don’t usually take the time to flesh it out into a writing piece as you did today. I love how your slice is so much more than a slice; it’s a teaching tool about gathering stories, writing, and remembering. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran Haley says:

    I admire how you reached “deep” to shake the memory loose – like a balloon, really, to re-inflate it. It would be fun to know the story behind this vivid reaction that left its lasting impression on you. The writerly mind, always at work … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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