Hidden Memories, They Do Exist!

10 Oct

Lately in the Kansas City area we are hearing much about ‘recovered’ memories due to a trial concerning the Catholic Church and a man who alleges he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child. The man says he repressed that memory until he was an adult and a friend told him about another child who was abused.

And I believe him, because about three years, I had a similar event. Memories that I had repressed and forgotten were uncovered because of a conversation.

It started simply enough. My husband and I were meeting a friend of ours for lunch and then we were going to the movies. My husband was going to a movie he wanted to see, and my friend and I were going to a ‘chick flick.’ But that is not what ended up happening.

When we met for lunch, my friend told us that she would not go to the movies, because another friend called and needed help with a party. My husband was annoyed. He said, “Well that takes care of that. No movie today.”

“Why not?” My friend asked. “You can still go to the movies.”

“No,” my husband responded. “Ellen does not go to the movies by herself.”

“You don’t!” My friend was surprised. “Why not?”

This is when I entered the conversation. I had never really thought about the fact that I never went to the movies by myself. I know lots of people who do, but I never ever went into a movie by myself.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t go to the movies by myself.”

My friend wanted answers, but I had none for her at that moment. But

as we ate lunch my brain kept thinking about it. Why don’t I go to the movies? There are many movies I want to see. When I go out of town, my husband always goes to the movies he wants to see that he knows I won’t go to. But I never do that. I have friends who go on their own in the afternoon. But I never do that. I wait till my husband or a friend will go with me. Why don’t I go to the movies by myself. It was really beginning to bother me.

Suddenly, I had a memory from my childhood, from a Saturday afternoon at the Embassy Theater in North Bergen. I remembered a bad thing.

“I think something happened in a theater when I was little,” I said. “I need to speak to my brother. He would know, because he was there.”

And that is where it ended. After lunch we went home because I really do not go to the movies by myself.

A few weeks later I flew to New Jersey to see my Dad. My brother picked me up at the airport. As he drove, I told him the story about not going to the movies alone and my memory of a man in the dark movie theater, sitting next to me, doing something nasty.

“Yes,” my brother told me. “It happened. “ And for the very first time that I remember, we talked about that day.

When we lived on Third Avenue, we went to the movies almost every weekend. There was an older boy, someone’s brother, who would take a group of us to the movies. About 8 to 10 of us would go each week. Sometimes we walked to the Embassy Theater and sometimes the fathers drove us. The older boy, a teenager, would sit in the middle of the group. My brother said the older boy was about 14; the rest of us ranged in age from about 7 to 10.

This one time, I had to go to the bathroom before the movie. My brother waited for me in the lobby. And then we went in. Because we were late, instead of sitting next to my girlfriend in the middle, I was sitting on the far left side. My brother was to my right next to the group. There was an empty seat to my left. When the movie started a man sat down next to me. He never touched me, but he exposed himself and touched himself.

I grabbed my brother on the arm. I was too scared to talk. I was about 7 or 8. At first he tried to push me off. But then he looked over and saw what was happening. My brother took my hand and pulled me to the older boy in the middle. He whispered in his ear. Everyone moved down and I was put next to the older boy.

I do not remember if he got the manager. I do not remember ever telling my parents what happened. I honestly did not remember the incident in my active brain at all. All I knew is that I do not go to the movies by myself. And I NEVER, EVER allowed my children to go alone to the movies until they were teens and driving, I always went to the movies with them. Even to movies I did not want to see!

When I go to the movies, I always sit to the right of my husband. So when I look to the left he is there. There is never a stranger next to me on the left. And I try to keep anyone I do not know from sitting next to me on the right.

My brother told me it was time to get over it, when he finished telling me what he remembered. Perhaps my brother is right. Perhaps it is the time to get over it.

But I do know that memories can remain uncover for years. That it is possible to forget something but still be impacted by actions that occurred when we were young.   And I know that an event or a converstaion can trigger the memory.

To be honest for a while I thought perhaps I was imagining it. Did this really happen to me? I did not want to ask my brother over the phone, because I thought he would laugh at me. I wanted to ask in person. I was lucky that my brother could confirm the memory. He was there. It did happen. I had a legitimate reason to be afraid.

Has my habits changed in the three years since I found out what happened? NO. I still cannot go to the movies by myself.

 

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