Oh Mommy! Look at the Dust!

I don’t remember saying it, it is family folklore that I did; mortifying my mother, who daily dust-mopped the hard-wood floors our ranch-style house.  The recipient of my comment was “the adoption lady,” the home-visit woman who would have a lot to say about the finalization of my adoption. I remember mom’s nervous trembling and the dangling ash from her menthol cigarette.   At a tender age I was overly sensitive to the emotions of others, I didn’t understand the meeting’s importance but I wanted this woman out of our house!

The next time I would hear this story I would be about 4, kneeling on our living room floor, resting my arms on an enormous mustard colored hassock.  Why were they always telling me I was “chosen,” of course I was!

The dust-mop, the next time I would encounter it, left an audio flashbulb memory*: it was a large industrial model and the handle would click-click along as the mop was maneuvered back and forth. My eldest sister was setting her hair with big hard pink curlers the size of frozen juice cans and Dippity-do, her plaid pajamas matched her shiny red hair.

My mother was getting all serious on me and I was all “Oh, ok. When are we having ice cream?” Not only did I not know what the big deal was, I couldn’t believe we were postoning our nightly frozen treat for this discussion.

My parents instilled in me a fear, that if I ever wanted to find my biological parents, it would kill them.  I don’t mean this figuratively, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t either. Looking back, do I think this was a healthy thing? Of course not. Would I change anything? Probably not.

I don’t think my opinion is more valid because I was adopted, I think I am more opinionated because I was adopted.



*Flashbulb memories (Wikipedia and Psychology Today) are distinctly vivid, precise, concrete, long-lasting memories of a personal circumstance surrounding a persons discovery of shocking events. People remember with almost perceptual clarity details of the context in which they first heard about the news, such as what they were doing, with whom they were with and where they were. These flashbulb memories are not as accurate or permanent as photographic memories but the flashbulb memories forgetting curve is far less affected by time than is the case for other types of memories studied in basic memory research.  The flashbulb memories are stored on one occasion and retained for a lifetime. These memories are associated with important historical or autobiographical events. Such events could include, for example, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. or the attack on Pearl Harbor.  What makes the flashbulb memory special is the emotional arousal at the moment that the event was registered to the memory. It is the emotions elicited by a flashbulb memory event that increase the ability to recall the details of the event.  One reason that the flashbulb memories are remembered is because these memories tend to be retold over and over again.


2 thoughts on “Oh Mommy! Look at the Dust!

  1. Janet: You aaaarrrre my chosen one. Yes, I have an upgraded phone (Verizon will give your anything if you have not upgraded for seven years) and have registered onto facebook. A real Lady of the 80’s.

    Can’t wait for you to join us in the adks. Will save dippety doo and big pink curlers for our sleepover.


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