Contest #140 shortlist ⭐️

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African American Fiction Contemporary

I remember my childhood in bits and pieces, like framed pictures of specific events that exist independently of all the other memories. There was the time I challenged my brother to a foot race down the steps of the rocky hill on the side of my grandfather’s house. My mother warned us to never run down the hill lest we injure ourselves. But that did not thwart us at all. We waited for her to go to work and proceeded with our plans. What else was there to do in the hot summer sun but run, hide, play, and take in all of the day’s light. There was also the time I climbed the mango tree in my grandfather’s backyard and got stuck. So I snacked on mangoes and hoped the house girl would find me before my grandfather came home. The Haitian sun was always more bearable in the shade of a tree and a cool breeze, and this tree was my favorite. It had the juiciest mangoes, branches that extended every which way, and was so full it shaded almost the entire courtyard. 

My grandfather, a tall, lanky man with a balding spot at the top of his head that he regularly covered with a gray felt hat; a hat that looked like it had seen as many good and bad days as he had, hated when we climbed his mango tree. He’d complain that we’d shake the fruit right out and that they’d burst and spoil when they fell on the ground. Though he was a man of few words, he spoke with a deep voice; you could not help but stop whatever you were doing and listen. 

Now, as I watch my daughter play in the grass under the tall oak tree in our yard, I wonder how much she’ll remember. I wondered if this day of swinging in the shade, twirling in the specks of sunlight, and inspecting blades of grass for ladybugs would make it into the archives of her memories. I wondered if I would be part of this memory or if I would fade into the fuzzy details of the day. Nothing of particular significance happened to me on the day that I got stuck in my grandfather’s mango tree. Nothing I remember, at least. It was not the first time I had been stuck in a tree. Climbing was never the issue; it was always the trip down that scared me. And yet, I remember that moment, the juiciness of the mango, how sticky my fingers got, and the look on my grandfather’s face when he found me in the tree. 

But the thing about memories is that the more you member them, the less reliable they become. My mother, who grew up in that house, does not remember a mango tree. No matter how much I described it. 

“Not my father’s house,” she would say. “We were never allowed in the courtyard. How would you have gotten to a tree?” She’d ask in wonderment and confusion. I’m sure, if she could, my mother would call me a liar. But, instead, she said, “these memories are not yours, dear,” and waved me off, as all Haitian parents do. As if my memories could somehow belong to someone else. It did not matter. If my memories did not reconcile with hers, it was as though they never were. 

I remember visiting my grandfather before he passed. I wanted so badly to believe my memories and hold on to that day as it was; I booked a flight and made the one thousand five hundred mile journey back to Haiti to ask him about the day he found me in the mango tree. 

“My child!” he exclaimed with a smile and a warm embrace. In his arms and the warmth of his body, I felt that it had been too long since our last embrace. “What has an old man done to deserve this visit?” His voice, scent, the breeze, and the faint sounds of life passing just beyond the house gates all reminded me of how much I had missed home. It brought tears to my eyes that surprised us both. 

“Do not cry,” he quipped “you are here now.” 

And I remembered how uncomfortable tears made him feel. I never understood how a military man with so much strength and discipline could handle bullets, bombs, and the chaos of the battlefield yet floundered at the sight of tears. It made me smile. We sat in silence for some time on the bench facing the courtyard, enjoying the afternoon breeze and the evening sun. 

“Do you remember the mango tree, grandpa?” I asked him.

“You mean this one right there? That you fell off of after I told you not to climb it?” He responded affectionately while pointing at the tree that cast shade on us. 

“Yes,” I smiled. I had forgotten that part. Or maybe I had blocked it out of my memory entirely. “Mama said we were never allowed in the courtyard.”

“The courtyard? My courtyard?” He interrupted. 

“Yes. She said,”— 

“No.” He interrupted again, this time more certain. “Not my daughter. She would not say such a thing,” he continued shaking his head. “She and the boys were always in the yard, climbing my trees and spoiling my mangoes,” he chuckled. “No matter how much I insisted or how many times I punished you, I could not keep you off of it.”

“You mean mama, right?”

“What?”

“You mean you could not keep mama off of it.”

“Right,” he replied, almost in a whisper, and looked at me as though it were for the first time. “That’s what I said. Maybe she is confused,” he continued. “Those memories aren’t hers.” 

I remember we sat in silence afterward. The evening became dusk, and our versions of events filled up the space between us. I wonder if there will come a day when I will dismiss my daughter’s recollection of her life. If this disconnect is a right of passage into motherhood, and if she will quietly accept it as I have.

April 07, 2022 18:32

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20 comments

14:47 Aug 14, 2022

What a story . l loved it . keep it up

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Dora Acosta
01:52 Aug 15, 2022

Thank you!

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Cindy Strube
18:35 Apr 15, 2022

Beautiful. Congratulations on the shortlist! The mind is fascinating, and the concept of memories not belonging to those who hold them… Very intriguing story!

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Dora Acosta
18:46 Apr 15, 2022

Thank you for your kind words, Cindy :)

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Nik Ses
20:01 Oct 01, 2022

l loved it, Dora. Thank you

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Ben Woolfrey
20:32 Jun 28, 2022

Hi Dora, "Two Sides Of The Same Coin" I am testing part of your story On the AURA Meditation app to find great writers like yourself, and help promote your work. I will be launching a podcast for aspiring and experienced writers and I wanted to see if you may be interested in getting on to the roster of near future guest interviews. please contact me at voicechoice.1@aol.com Thank you Ben Woolfrey Aura-Storyteller/ Sleep expert Voice Choice.1 voicechoice.1@aol.com www.linkedin.com/in/ben-woolfrey-197157118

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Dora Acosta
02:26 Jun 29, 2022

Hi Ben, I DO NOT consent to your use of my story on your AURA app. I see you have already posted my story without my permission or consent. Please remove my story at once. Furthermore, I am not interested in your podcast.

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Ali Al Ali
15:58 May 31, 2022

gooooooooooooood

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Melody Richmond
03:18 May 31, 2022

Thanks to Dr. Owan for his good work I never believe that HIV has cure, I was HIV positive over 3 year now before I came across a comment about how Dr. Owan cure HIV and herpes disease but when I saw it i have it in mind that he can’t cure HIV I just decided to give it a try I contact him that night luckily to me he replied me, but I don’t believe him I thought it was a scam but I still hold on to see the work of Dr Owan if he is saying the truth he ask for some details about me i gave him all he needed and I waited to see his reply to my pr...

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Kevin Broccoli
18:08 Apr 19, 2022

I love when people can construct such a fully realized story in such a short amount of words. This is stunning. Well done.

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Dora Acosta
01:33 Apr 20, 2022

Thank you Kevin, for your kind and encouraging words. :)

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04:44 Apr 19, 2022

Beautiful story. I loved it from beginning to end. Welcome to the reedsy community! I can’t wait to see what else you write. Congrats on the shortlist!

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Dora Acosta
01:31 Apr 20, 2022

Thank you for the warm welcome and kind words! :)

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Philip Ebuluofor
13:59 Apr 16, 2022

Fine work. And hearty welcome.

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Dora Acosta
17:59 Apr 16, 2022

Thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
08:48 Apr 17, 2022

Pleasure

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Riel Rosehill
10:30 Apr 13, 2022

Hi Dora! First, welcome to Reedsy! Great job here with your first submission... and I must say I relate to getting stuck up in trees as a child, haha. I loved the lines "“these memories are not yours, dear,” "As if my memories could somehow belong to someone else." and "“Those memories aren’t hers.” "My favourite line was The evening became dusk, and our versions of events filled up the space between us." Thanks for sharing & good luck in the contest - I saw your story has made it onto the recommended list!

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Dora Acosta
21:16 Apr 13, 2022

Hi Riel, Thank you so much! And I'm happy to hear you liked it. :)

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Riel Rosehill
16:41 Apr 15, 2022

I'm back to say congrats for the shortlist! How awesome!

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Dora Acosta
18:47 Apr 15, 2022

Thank you! It was much-needed and unexpected good news. Thank you for your kind words :)

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