When I first read Jeannette Wall’s memoir, “The Glass Castle,” I cried. I cried because her narrative about family, home (or lack thereof), and identity was exceptional. But also, I cried because I related to her.
Her words and memories — wrapped in shame, pain, sympathy, longing and love — seemed to be the foundation of her healing. Of moving on. Of processing and understanding. Of self-discovery and forgiveness.
Her parents became her ghosts. They were looming figures that brought her so much love and pain. They were a disease that she could not heal or run away from. Writing, perhaps, was her way of confronting her ghosts.
I have ghosts who I write about often. I write about them, not for their sake, nor for the sake of storytelling. No, I write for me. So I can Understand; Process; Learn; Mourn; Celebrate; Forgive; Honor; And maybe, Move On.
I write about my grandmother a lot.
Her narrative and character development over the 21 years I have known her are fascinating. She’s compelling, beautiful, difficult, and gripping… A storyteller’s dream.
Ever since I was little, she has told me stories of how she met my grandfather, how she tolerated her tyrant mother-in-law, how she struggled to raise three kids, and much more. Most of her stories are of pain and suffering. Come to think of it, I don’t remember her recounting any funny or happy memories.
She repeats the same sad stories. Over and over again.
Maybe those stories are her ghosts.
Maybe she recounts those stories because she’s trying to Understand; Process; Learn; Mourn; Celebrate; Forgive; Honor; and maybe, Move On.
Our ghosts become our muses.
Their haunting melody become catalysts for our growth. Their echo reminds us of who we were, who we are, and who we want to become.
Perhaps, the trick is to let those spaces between “were,” “are,” and “to become” become spaces of hope, instead of spaces of fear and regret.
Because grandmothers, memoirs, and ghosts are meant to bring us freedom, not keep us imprisoned.