The story of me, is the story of you
Guest piece: Karolina Borg
Did you know there’s a story about your life? It's true, because everyone's life is a story. But not necessarily one that follows a straight line or any kind of logic. At times it might not even feel relevant, other times much more so. It might feel larger than life, or so insignificant that it hardly matters. But it’s there, and has a context with its own unique DNA. It’s made up of pictures and words. Some of them real, others completely imaginary. But more than anything it’s made up of emotions.
If I could choose a story, it would be my mother’s. Since she is no longer with us, I can no longer ask her about the emotions that were her life. Oh, goodness, yes! I’ve almost heard it all. Her childhood in the village, the big move to the city, the struggles that would come to define her. But how did she feel while living those memories? What was the essence of the photos I’ve seen? The ones she painted for me with varied layers of transparency depending on her mood and her energy. Her story filled with emotion, that’s what I want more than anything, because in a way, the story of her is also the story of me.
Of course, I know some things are impossible. But other things are possible. And I have a few I can save, when it comes to my own emotions. I have time on my side and my children are under my wing (for now, at least). So to my dear, darling children, who don’t have the slightest interest in what your mother carries in her heart (or on her sleeve, for that matter). I’m sorry for not making you a magical “My First Year” book or an even more magical bank book (yes, that’s what it was called when I was little) with a whole wad of cash to collect when it’s time for you to leave the nest – and I’m sorry that I always fell asleep when trying to read you bedtime stories when you were young. But now I’m going to give you something else that is magical. A DNA that you can never trace by yourselves. With a little help from some photos, I give you a small piece of my own story and all the emotions that go with it. Because, even if you don’t quite know it yet, the story of me, is also the story of you. And your story is also a part of mine.
You’ll understand more when you’re older. A lot older.
I mean a lot older!
Love from mum.
The memory of an embrace
Here, I’m really tiny. Obviously I don’t remember the exact moment. But somewhere deep inside there’s the feeling of being loved, being held tightly in someone’s arms. You both know that Grandma was sick. Nearly all my life she fought for her own life. A third of her life. At times it was better, other times it was worse. And it’s probably this that has defined me most as a person. Her, being sick. That’s why it makes me so happy to see photos of this feeling. Grandma holding me in arms that don’t fail her. F and B, I don’t yet know what will define you as people. Hopefully, my brilliance. (Just kidding …). Maybe it’ll be something worse that I’ll pretend to know nothing about if you bring it up when you’re older, or maybe it’ll be nothing special at all. But I do hope that you’ll remember. The feeling of being loved. Being held tightly in someone’s arms. Someone carrying you.
The feeling of a scar
Here you are, F. Also tiny. You’ve just entered into this world. You took a long time to appear and the first thing you did was scratch your cheek in protest. You still carry the scar today. I love it! Sometimes it catches my eye and I get lost in time. You’re so grown up. Soon you’ll disappear into your own life. But we always carry our scars with us. On both the outside and the inside. Remember, they aren’t always bad. Our scars. Many of them tell us something beautiful about our lives.
The meaning of a fake mocha vest
Here are you and I, B. Both of us (in my case years) younger than we are today. What a dizzying thought, if we could meet each other there. The same age. Wouldn’t that be something? I remember the feel of the clothes I was wearing as if it were yesterday. It was a matching set. Vest and skirt. Shirt underneath. The soft feel of the fake mocha beneath my fingertips. I think it’s my first clothes memory. Everything about it whispered to me. Told me secrets about how I could feel the way I wanted to feel. So B, when you feel every single seam in what you’re wearing, when you’re trying on outfits in front of the mirror for hours on end, when you need (!!!) those shoes in order to feel complete, then you’ll know that you got that from me. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not shallow. It’s about you and the feeling of actually feeling like yourself. I know that that denim shirt is one of your first clothes memories. You loved it, and maybe even loved yourself in it.
Remembering a home
You both know that I started playing tennis at a young age. A really young age. And became quite good at it. I don’t want to brag. BUT…. yes, it’s true, I was among the ten best players in the country. Anyhow. For a long time tennis was a major part of my life, the feel of the tennis strings beneath my fingers, the yellow ball and the grip on my racket feel as if they’re tattooed inside me. Even now, when I walk onto a tennis court, smell the felt and hear a ball hitting a racket, it feels like home. But one day, it felt like everything just stopped. And I quit. I remember feeling like I was giving up and in some ways it felt like losing a home. But that wasn’t the case. F and B. There are many places that feel like home during a lifetime. Some of them you outgrow even if they never quite leave you. So whenever you're in doubt, remember that quitting isn’t the same as giving up. Stopping something also means starting something new. And nothing you do will ever be in vain. Everything creates spaces for you to step inside whenever you feel like it.
Fear of a fear
This is the first day of first grade. Me starting school, but also starting a new life. I might look happy and excited, because that’s how we’re told to look in photos, right? “Smile for the camera”... But I was actually … well, scared shitless is the way I would describe it. There are different types of fear. But what I’ve learned in hindsight is that nothing is really worse that fearing fear itself. It is paralyzing. What happens after fear is never as dangerous as the actual fear itself. F and B, I’ve worked hard at trying to be more fearless in life. I don’t actually know if I’ve come very far, but I do know that I haven’t passed my fears on to you. You are both so brave, albeit in completely different ways. Even if being fearless isn’t the key to everything, fear is a kind of lock. None of us have the key to everything, but being locked in fear seems rather pointless. (That being said, I’d love to lock you up forever, so that nothing bad could ever happen to you.) And that brings me to my teens, where you both are now. Actually, there’s a lot of not-so-flattering things to be said about my teens. But we’ll save that for the next book about my feelings. Because there’s no escaping my story. I want to tell you all of it.
Things can look a hundred different ways. And feel a thousand. Saving them is the greatest gift you can give someone. Because the story of you is the story of someone else, who may be looking for answers to questions that never had the chance of being asked.