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JamBios Memory Gallery

The JamBios Memory Gallery showcases user submitted memory stories from around the globe.
Each month selections are hand curated by Annie Cusick Wood and the JamBios creative team. They are chosen based on how the memory touches our heart, makes us laugh or inspires us.

To submit your memory story, start your free JamBio and invite the Memory Gallery to read one of your Chapter sections. Select Reader "Memory Gallery" at MemoryGallery@JamBios.com.

JamBios Featured Section
By Cat Mealer

Pugnacious Henry 

For a long, long part of my life, I was a very heavy sleeper. I could sleep with a train passing by when we lived less than a mile from the tracks. I could sleep with alarms going off. I could sleep with my mother banging on my bedroom door trying to wake me up, only to awaken when she breaks in after removing the doorknob. I used to sleep through anything. 

I have not been a heavy sleeper since our house was broken into and the burglar made his way into my bedroom. 

I was a college student when it happened and still living at home. It was the most financially responsible decision and our family never operated under the idea that you had to move away from home once you turned eighteen. You moved away when it was the smart decision, not a societal obligation. I was still in the same bedroom that I had been in since junior high. It was a second floor bedroom with a sliding door that closed but didn't lock thanks to the aforementioned story about my mother banging on my bedroom door while I was sleep. I was in high school at the time of that incident and I really didn't hear her. She said she banged and banged on my door and called my name but it wasn't until I woke up and saw her staring at me from the doorway, wide-eyed and disbelieving, a screwdriver in hand, that I was aware of anything. I also immediately went back to sleep afterward. 

So my door didn't have a lock. It had this tiny little square that was always open to the world (or hallway) outside of it which was fine with me. I could change my clothes out of sight of the door, although by this time I was the only child living at home and my parents' bedroom was downstairs. What did I have to hide? The copious hours I spent online or drawing Star Trek fanart? 

I did (and do!) have a pug. His name is actually King Henry V on his official papers but for brevity's sake, we call him Henry. Henry is my

a couch pug-tato

companion in all things. He is my snuggler, my garbage disposal for leftovers, my fellow-couch potato. He likes to take naps on my pillow, squarely atop my head. He likes going for walks but only short ones. If you try to make him walk too long, he gives up. He sits down and stops walking and then I'm left carrying a 26 pound pug back to the car.  He's my caretaker too when I need him to be. If I've been crying, he'll paddle over to me, sit in my lap and start licking at my cheeks. If I have a band-aid anywhere, he licks that too. It's probably not the most hygienic friend to have but he's my little buddy in all things. 

And of course, as any well and truly spoiled pet, he has always slept in my bed. He tucks himself under the blankets and into my arms like a child with their teddy bear. 

Knowing all this, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I didn't wake up when the intruder was in my bedroom. It surprised me afterward. It terrified me that someone could be in my room, only a few feet from me and I wouldn't know it. It still terrifies me. 

The intruder made it in through a window on the first floor that goes directly into our living room. Most of the window is surrounded by tall, thick bushes so someone would had to have been looking for a way into our home in order to find one that was unlocked. We had a portable air conditioner unit that requires being connected to a window. That's how they got in. I still check this window when I'm home at my parent's house and it's late in the evening. I'm sure I'll jump out of my skin if I ever move the curtain aside and actually see someone staring back at me but I have to keep checking nonetheless. 

At the time, we also had a Basset Hound named Ralph. I don't know where Ralph was or what this stranger did so that our normally big, fierce, booming bark of a dog didn't chase him. Ralph normally slept in the living room on the cool hardwood floors, ears flopped over his eyes. Maybe he really didn't see him. Or hear him. Or smell him. I don't know. 

I don't know what the intruder's path was in our living room. I know nothing was taken from there, not the laptops we had on the table or any of the various electronics. I don't know if he went into our kitchen or our dining room. I don't know what time he came in or how long he was wandering around our house before he went upstairs. I don't think he went into my sister's old empty bedroom. The door was still closed the next morning and the only way to turn the light on in there was through the cord on the ceiling fan, directly next to the four poster bed. It seems like too much trouble. But no one knows except, I guess, for the guy who broke in. I don't think I actually want to find out. I'm okay with not knowing. 

I didn't know for sure that he was in my bedroom until after he was out of the house. 

Henry, among his many other talents, could paw my sliding door open. A few well placed scratches of his paw would see the door shake just enough for him to nudge it open with his nose. And like I said, I was a heavy sleeper. I could sleep through him jumping off my bed, leaving my bedroom, and going downstairs when my dad started cooking breakfast. 

My mom woke me up after it was all over. I regret now that I wasn't able to be more sympathetic to her in the moment because I'm sure she was shaken too. 'Last night, someone broke into the house. Everyone is okay. Henry woke your dad up barking at the back door. When he went to investigate it, he saw someone crouched behind the door, trying to shove things back into your purse.

I usually left my purse downstairs in the living room. It was the easiest location for me to grab it the next morning along with my backpack and laptop before heading to class or work. 

'He didn't take anything, we don't think. Seeing your dad spooked him and he dropped your purse and ran off.

I was relieved for that. Scared but grateful that nothing had been taken. I was proud of Henry but too in shock to truly recognize how proud I was about to be. 

The next few sequences are a blur. I think it was the haze of the moment. Recognizing that someone had been in our house. I think my mom guided me downstairs to look in my purse and make sure that nothing was stolen. It was all there. Cash, debit card, my one credit card I had at the time and all of my identification. All electronics were still there and everything in the house seemed fine but I was still very jittery. I talked with my mom and decided that there were two people I also needed to talk to: my then boyfriend, now fiance for comfort and my job to tell them that I might not be in that day since we still had to call the police. I went upstairs to get my cellphone which I always left charging overnight on the desk in my room. It was my morning alarm, always two feet from my head. 

It wasn't there. 

I searched around my desk, around my room, around my bed. I think I yelled from the top of the stairs for my mom to call my phone just in case I couldn't find it. Voicemail. No ringing, just voicemail.  

The intruder had stolen my phone. From my bedroom. While I was asleep. 

That was when the dam broke. I was downstairs with my mother and I remember shouting through my tears 'HE WAS IN MY ROOM!' I couldn't believe it. I was well and truly terrified. I was scared. I started thinking of all the terrible things that could have happened, how I could have been hurt. I was crying and Henry found me, forcing his way into my lap to look up at me with those big brown eyes. I remember hugging him so tight while he licked my face. 

I don't actually remember the intruder being chased but that's what seems to make the most sense. The sounds my dad heard, enough to wake him up just in time to see the guy crouched at our backdoor instead of catching him while he was still in the house? It doesn't make sense if Henry didn't bark until they were both downstairs at the backdoor. The guy would have made it away before my dad could get there, even if he had dropped my purse outside our backdoor. The only thing that makes sense logistically is that somehow, Henry, my little buddy, protected me while I slept. Not even thirty pounds but fierce enough to chase a grown man out of our home and away from me. 

King Henry V, Spirit of the Dragon
October 28, 2012. the day of.

I took the above photo the same day of the intrusion. It was later that afternoon, after it all transpired, but this is Henry, all his size, all his pouty pug face. This is what he looked like when he stood up against a burglar.

This is Henry last year, four years older, four years of more personality. The police never caught the guy who broke into our home. At least, they didn't catch him for that crime. I think that, even if it wasn't our house he was busted for, he was arrested for a different home invasion. There was a string of burglaries we heard of after our home. It frightened me for a long time, not knowing who he was that was in my room. I remember being in class or at work, shaking because I felt like it could be almost anyone. I could come face to face with the guy and not know it. I'm okay with not knowing now. I don't really want to find out who it is because I don't want them to have that power over me. I'm safe now. I was safe then, even though that burglar probably didn't think I was. They didn't know Henry. 

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Category: Gallery Selection

This memory runs the gamut of emotions. It's scary but with a lovable lead character.

JamBios Featured Section
By Carolyn Baker

To Dream, Perchance of Home

I grew up in many houses and sleep on floors, and couches. However, the one house that I remember the most and still haunts my dreams, is my very first home. It had burned down when I was fifteen, but it had already made a mark on my life. It had no AC, and no heating. It was a one bedroom house that was over a hundred years old. It looked more like a shack, but you couldn't tell from the road. We had massive oak trees that blocked the view from the road. That one bedroom house was the home to a family of five. It used to be six, but my little brother died shortly after coming home from the Hospital. It was Christmas eve, and it broke my mother and tore my family apart. After the death of my brother, it was decided that my older sister would go live with my grandma. She would visit often and stay for a few weeks, but she always left. I was alone most of the time in the old house. I would sit in front of the TV with a cat on one side of me and a dog on the other. I felt like they were my babysitters half of the time. I knew every inch of that old house. My dad sleep in the main bedroom. The living room had in it two queen size beds and, a fireplace, and TV. One bed for my mom to sleep in and one for the kids. The bathroom was tiny and we did not have hot water until I was 10. We often took baths in an old metal tub in front of the fireplace during the winter. The kitchen was small, and seemed more like one long hallway, that had a gas stove, table and sink. That's where most of the roaches stayed. The front door gave me a lot of nightmares when I was very young. It did not have a door nob. It looked like it had been pieced together by several other doors. There was a very large chain that went thru the hole where the door nob should have been and another hole in the wall. The chain was locked with a padlock when we were gone. Every time the coyotes would howl at night. I would stare at that door, waiting to see if they could come in. I often did not sleep very well when that happened. I used to hate this house so much.

Most of he time, I was up on the roof or in a tree daydreaming. Sometimes, I would lay back amongst the branches and drift off to sleep. Once when I fell asleep in the house. A small tornado came thru and knocked down one of the big tree branches near the living room where I slept. I woke up looking out a window with tree branches leaning on it. How or why our house was still standing. I will never know. They said that the tornado jumped over the trees and the house, and I had slept right through it. Now, when I drift off to sleep. The old house comes back to haunt me. Reminding me of a home that no longer exist. Granted it was a shack that looked like a strong wind would blow it down. It was still my home. That house gave me shelter and kept me safe when I didn't think it could. That's probably why it still haunts me to this day. Probably, still trying to give me strength and teach me a lesson. That's what a good home does.

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Category: Memory of the Week Finalist

Memories that haunt us can sometimes give us strength just like the old home in this story.

JamBios Featured Section
By Brittany Rae

the fragility of memory

The thing about this particular memory is that it’s one that I look back on with a sort of vague fuzziness. It’s blurry around the edges, mostly made up of black and yellow and white, devoid of sound. I don’t know what that night sounded like. For all I know, it didn’t have sound at all.

I actually don’t know what that night looked like, either; the colours in my head are my own creation, pieced together from other people’s accounts. I don’t even think it’s an accurate one. I see a roadway on a summer night -- but it was fall, and it was snowy. I see a deserted street, but surely other cars drove around mine. I don’t see people, but I know people were there. I was there.

I just can’t remember it.

This memory is a cheat, in a way. The night I created it, I lost it. Not of my own accord, of course, and I desperately wish time was the culprit of its loss. I like losing memories to the slow slide of time -- it means they faded normally, slipping into the recesses of my mind, perhaps recalled with some serious effort and some creative language.

This one, though. This one I didn’t get to keep.

They told me later that things might come back. Brain injuries are hard, they said, because no one really knows how your particular brain will react to trauma. Time could bring them back -- time, they said, was all I needed.

But I knew. I was sixteen and had a constant ache in my back, in my chest, in my head, and I knew. I was never getting that night back. Or the week before -- that was gone. So were little bits and pieces of the month and the year before. So were pieces of my life.

I lost the next year, too, though I didn’t know that would happen at the time. In fact, from the year before the accident to three years after it, I’m not really clear on much of anything. I know there was an accident, and I know I graduated high school, but beyond that things are just a little out of reach. Like trying to pick an apple from a branch that keeps growing ever upward.

Anyway, let’s get to the point: I lost my memory while dressed as a vampire.

I know. I know. But bare with me, because anyone at age sixteen will list off “vampire” as one of their top Halloween costume choices, and I was trying to impress a boy. I’m not sure how I was going to impress him with a mouth full of fake vampire teeth and hair so stiff with hairspray that it didn’t move, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I thought I was hot shit.

At twenty-seven, I am well aware I was not hot shit. Bless my past self for trying, though. She was a trooper.

So, here’s what I remember:

- Standing in red-painted bedroom, listening as my clunky, silver TV played my favourite episode of The X-Files (it starred a “vampire” and Luke Wilson, as your normal TV episodes do), spraying hairspray to high heaven.

- The pink zipper of my best friend’s black Lulu Lemon coat. That was the thing I repeated over and over when anyone asked what I remembered: “Sarah’s coat. I remember Sarah’s coat.” She wore it when she visited me in the hospital. I don’t remember the hospital, but I remember that coat.

That’s it.

Here’s what happened:

I left my mom’s Halloween work party to climb into a car with three of my friends. I was on my way to my first high school Halloween party, all the way out on what I thought was the outskirts of town, but is now actually a few blocks away from where my family and I eventually moved. Life is funny like that.

I got into my friend Greg’s car. He drove. Sean, the boy I was trying desperately to impress, rode shotgun. Jordan sat to my left.

I have no idea what we talked about. No one ever told me. I don’t think they really thought about it much, but sometimes I wonder. When memory is the thing you don’t have, you end up caring a lot more about the details that other people don’t think to.

At some point, we stopped at a red light. At some point, some kid in a pickup truck with a lot of bravado and zero good judgement decided that the light was going to change before he had to slow down. At some point, it had snowed, and the temperature had dropped, and ice had formed on the road. At some point, all those things converged into one heartbeat of a moment.

The guy did end up stopping. He just kind of did it by smashing into us.

Accounts vary from person to person, with me being (quite obviously) the least helpful of the bunch. But it basically boiled down to this: three sides of the car got away pretty unscathed, and one really didn’t. The back right corner took the brunt of the truck’s impact -- so I, as the person sitting on the right in the backseat, took the brunt of the truck’s impact. Things flew. The car spun.  My back contorted in a way it shouldn't have, so much so that it sometimes pains me even now. My head collided with the cracking passenger window and smashed it to pieces. My family picked glass out of hair for the next day.

After that, I’m not too sure what happened. I know my mom’s story: she got a call from me telling her that I’d been in an accident, but I was okay. I was still going to the party. I was fine. She says she didn’t even let my grandpa stop the car at the scene before she was out of the it and sprinting for me. I know in my hear that that’s true.

My brain “rebooted” all night. It was like Dory from Finding Nemo -- over and over again, I’d think something, lose it, and then repeat it again. I asked my sister who she was when she walked into my hospital room. I don’t think I’ll ever break someone’s heart the way I did when I looked at her and couldn’t tell her who she was.

(I refused to see Finding Dory. It's easy to guess why.)

I woke up the next morning in my mom’s bed. My 14 year-old sister was squished in next to my legs, and my mom was wrapped around my back. I had no idea why I was there. For a few, beautiful, blissful moments, I lived in a world where nothing was wrong. For a few moments, my not being able to remember was a good thing.

I made them tell me what happened. I made them repeat it. They told me over and over, until hearing it made me angry. It still does. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to remember.

My brain hasn’t been the same since then. I was young, and my back healed up well, but my memory...it never went back to normal. My family calls me a goldfish, and I truly am. I can’t recall things like other people can. Moments from my childhood that my sister remembers in perfect clarity are just blank spaces to me. Details like someone’s favourite colour, or their least favourite food, or their birthday -- those slip away. Even big memories don’t have the same kind of vibrancy that they should. I wish I could remember my mom’s wedding, but so much of it is a haze. My sister’s graduation, the year I went to film school, the intensive therapy I went to in order to deal with my PTSD -- it’s all sort of gone.

But this is why writing matters. This is why social media, and diaries, and the internet matter. These things we use to communicate with each other have a different meaning for me, because they contain my memories. I’ve trained my brain over the years to hold almost as much as other people can, but the things that I can’t hold onto, my phone will.

So I write everything. Every thought, every moment, every ridiculous picture gets put in my phone, or on Twitter, or Instagram -- or JamBios. The internet is my memory now, and it holds my most treasured moments. I look back, and I can see the day I moved from my home in Edmonton to my rainier home in Vancouver. I can see my sister’s 21st birthday, or the day I adopted my cat, or the day I met my best friends. All of it is preserved on the internet in perfect, detailed clarity.

People worry about us spending too much time on our phones. We spend too much time behind screens. And maybe we do. But me? I’ve figured out how to supplement my mind’s failings with a technology designed to never forget. My camera catches the beauty of the sun meeting the water in Stanley Park, the tranquility of my best friends sitting on a couch talking to each other, the hilarity of my dog’s inability to turn left (she really can’t). It sees my mom sticking her tongue out at me, my sister dancing badly, the gently swaying palms in Maui.

I take those images, and I turn them into words. I turn them into mementos, reminders, memories of things I’m afraid I’ll forget. The internet holds what my mind can’t. I can look up from a screen and see the world around me, and I can look down at it so that I’ll never forget it.

In this way, I am free.

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Category: Memory of the Week Finalist

We were quite blown away by this story and how the writer pieced together her own and others' memories of the events.

JamBios Featured Section
By Jordan hickman

That Time I Almost Took Out My Brother's Eye

Growing up in south Texas my family and I always went camping in San Marcos every summer. The mighty San Marcos river became our playground for a whole week. My brother, Jacob, and I would go down to the river to skip rocks, swing from ropes into the river, or just try and see who could beat the rapids the fastest. 

My dad decided to try something a little different one year so he brought some fishing poles and live bait so we could try our hand at fishing. Our water-loving selves had oddly never gone fishing before. My dad explained the basics to us as he prepared the hooks with the muddy worms. I'm left-handed and I guess in the process of my dad explaining to me how to properly cast a line, I inverted the procedure and did it completely backwards. Instead of my gross worm hook heading into the water, it landed in my brother's cheek, who was behind me. 

My dad, who is a literal genius, immediately saw what was happening and tried to tell Jacob to get out of the way, but it was too late. My brother's sunburnt cheek was suddenly moving, and the hook was stationed near millimeters from his eye. 

A little backstory, if you will. My brother was insane. He was the kind of person who was always moving and running and could not be still. Sitting still, to him, was like a foreign concept that he just could not grasp. 

My dad made his way over to my brother who was starting to freak out a bit. The hook had managed to get stuck in there real good and my dad was unable to just pull it out. He had to go back to the campsite to get his pliers. While my dad is gone my brother starts to get antsy. He's got a live worm still writhing around while the actual fishing line is wrapped all around the trees and pulling on his cheek. To me, it might have been the best moment of my life. To him he was quite terrified. 

As Jacob begins to start using his hands to drum on a nearby tree, I realized that by doing so it was pulling the hook a little bit with each movement. Not wanting to risk ripping the skin completely, or moving the hook into his eye, he was forced to just stand there. And stand there he did. Like a statue. Like a soldier. He stood there so proud of himself for what seemed like hours. My dad finally arrives and very carefully removes the worm, fishing line, and hook from my brother's now swollen face. My brother heads to the campsite to get checked out by our mom, while my dad and I stayed behind to clean up. 

As we began the trek toward the campsite, I asked dad why he needed the pliers to get the hook out. He looked at me and said, "oh, I didn't really. Could have gotten it with my hands. I just wanted to see if he could be still." He looks over at me and finishes with, "good job." 

My brother had a nice little scab on his face for a few weeks that slowly faded into a small scar over time. He never let me live it down. 

Sadly, in 2005, my brother passed away from cancer. One day in the hospital, following a grueling surgery that left him with a giant scar on his belly, he looked at me and said "now there's another scar on my body, but yours is still the worst."

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Category: Memory of the Week Finalist

Ahhh, those memories of times with the family.

JamBios Featured Section
By Jordan hickman

My First Section Title

It's amazing how the monotony of daily lives can make one apathetic. I bet your life is like mine: full of merry and wonderment, stress and chaos, and boring nights spent watching television. We wake up and never expect today to be any different. Sometimes, however, something extraordinary happens when you least expect it which wakes you up and see life differently. 

I met my husband when we were both 22 years old. We went to a small university so we knew of each other and had lots of mutual friends before we got together. We started dating and less than a year later we got married. Two children and almost ten years later I wouldn't trade a moment of my life with him. He's my best friend and has made me the woman I am today. His weaknesses are my strengths and vice versa. I adore that giant nerd so much. 

Last week I realized just how short and fragile human life can be. I was at work when my husband texted me telling me he was having chest pains, shortness of breath, and his arm was going numb. I switched from passive to active mode and I left work to go pick him up and take him to urgent care. If your town is anything like mine then you have one major hospital and about 200 urgent care clinics.

We live in a small-ish town so the drive from my work to his work to the urgent care took all of 20 minutes. We get inside the clinic and before he even finishes filling out his paperwork they had us in an exam room. At this point my husband is starting to feel better. He tells the doctor and she still wants to do an EKG to make sure all is well. She's a bit aloof and seems more concerned with what's happening out in the hall. 

They put the sticky stickers all over his hairy chest and start the machine. Thirty seconds later the nurse disconnects the monitor and walks out. By the time my husband puts his shirt back on the doctor is in the room. Her aloof demeanor is now something akin to the giant red X emoji. 

"Your heart is not good" she says, panic in her voice. "You have to get to the ER. NOW." 

She gives him nitroglycerin and aspirin. She asks me if I'm okay to drive him. 

In that moment my mind went to three places:

1. "I can't lose him."

2. "This idiot is never going to watch his daughter learn to walk."

3. "I'm very glad we purchased that life insurance policy last year."

My husband loves with his whole heart. He can grow a full beard in three days. His hair is so curly is grows out instead of down. He has the uncanny ability to imagine the worst possible thing that can happen in any scenario. I, on the other hand, have made him so angry for how positive and hopeful I am. It drives him absolutely crazy. That mixture of fear and hope has served us well over the years. 

For the first time in my life I couldn't help but think that this was the moment I was going to lose my husband. I'd never again look into his black eyes or see him smile. Our children would grow up without their father. 

In that moment, that brief moment in time, I couldn't see a future with him. I got brief flashes of our wonderful life together and what we've accomplished together. The life we've made together and where we came from. We truly make a sensational team. But in that brief moment of time it all came apart. No future, no hope, no more fights about folds the towels the best. (I do, obviously.)

Then, just as suddenly. Anger. Fear. Love. Rage. Joy. Sadness. I don't know if you've ever experienced the full gamut of emotions in the span of several seconds, but I do not recommend it. 0/10 would not recommend. 

As the doctor is asking me if I'm okay to drive, I'm desperately trying to hold back tears as I look at my husband and he has this look on his face that I will never forget. It was hope. Finally! What a jerk.

It was that "hey, I'm not going anywhere" look. His eyes were soft and that one grey patch in his beard was trying to reach out to me from across the room to comfort me. He knows that I need a moment so he asks the doctor a few questions and my nervous, anxiety-ridden husband is the calmest person in the room.

We get to the emergency room and they immediately get him in to run more tests. EKG. Chest x-ray. Too much blood. 

Four hours later a cardiologist makes his way in and tells us all is well. We ask about the first EKG and he says that it's completely normal. Apparently the aloof doctor didn't know how to read an EKG and sent us to the ER for nothing. For the first time in hours Robert and I look at each other and almost in unison exhale breaths we didn't know we were holding. 

The good doctor puts Robert on some anti-anxiety meds and tells him to take it easy. Stress isn't good for anybody, no matter how healthy they are. 

We get released and as we're walking down the hall to our car he grabs my hand and doesn't say a word. We're both thinking the same thing: Time. We get more time. And a very expensive ER bill. 

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Category: Memory of the Week Finalist

A lot of us can relate to this memory of how scary it is to come close to losing someone.

JamBios Featured Section
By Ronni Ng

The 17 Year Journey

"You're going to cry."

I shift in my makeup chair while my hula sister across of me steals my attention away from my own thoughts. Confusion is etched upon my features. Cry? Why? It's supposed to be the best two nights of my life, not the saddest. For some reason, I immediately associate the action with despair. Would I feel unfulfilled after leaving the stage? Would I feel as if I've peaked? Her comment is brushed off as I think, 'I won't cry because I'll be filled with adrenaline. I'm not going to cry.' 

It turns into a mantra instead of a simple comment. 

And, of course, the adrenaline rolls through my veins. It had been in me since I was chosen along with thirty-five of my closest friends - my sisters, though not connected by blood - to share our culture. We were chosen to share our stories both collective and individual across the world. It never dawned on me that there would be more than a million people watching us. That they'd be watching me. For the first time in my life, I'd be dancing in the Merrie Monarch festival instead of watching it from the comfort of my couch with my family. Bundles of fluttering anxiety nestle in my chest when that realization sets in. That, and sheer intimidation.

I'm not focusing on the tight bun that my hair is being molded into after I move on from the makeup chair. My mind isn't registering the pins poking into my scalp while my lei po'o (head lei) is secured on with MASSIVE bobby pins. Instead, I'm quiet as I review everything in my head. Our oli is solid. We've practiced our dance thousands of times in the months leading up to the festival. 

We get dressed and go through our final checks before boarding the vans and driving to the stadium. The ten-minute ride is silent in each van as we reflect. Some of us review the moves in our heads. Our dressing room is a simple shared space; the only partitions were flanking our sides with rope and garbage bags that were cut in half. Four other halau were around us while we adjusted our skirts and straightened our tops. Our 'army' descends onto the stage in perfect formation. I remain focused during the entire fourteen-minute performance. I hit my marks. I feel the music. 

But, I don't cry.

Some of my sisters begin bawling as soon as we exit the stage. Again, confusion fills my being. 'I love hula. I love dancing. Why am I not connecting? What am I missing?"

Though, I have no time to seek the answers to my own questions. Only half of our competition is over; there's no time to reflect, yet. Tears are wiped away before we center ourselves once again. For our next piece, we have fewer women on stage. Nearly half of our group did not make it through to the 'auana section. But, our connection with each other is still strong. 

We go through the same process as the evening before in preparation for our second and final piece. I sit in the makeup chair. I get flowers pinned into my hair. I sit in yet another silent van on the way to the stadium. We get dressed. Our kumu does his final checks. Anticipation floods our dressing room. 

Regardless, we perform flawlessly and confidently. The meaning of our oli and hula speak to us in ways I had never imagined. There was so much meaning and importance in a five-minute song. We perform. We share. We dance. We don't dance to win. We dance because our passions have been ignited, not for an award.

And before I could even step off the stage, I begin to cry.

Tears transform my airbrushed makeup into long black streaks as they rolled down my face. My breaths are shallow while I allow the emotions to overcome my being. Next to me, my sisters mirror my actions. We're all crying and we don't know why. We're too wrapped up in the adrenaline rush to comprehend why.  The rest of the competition is a blur. Our emotions and outpouring of love and support for each other were the only things we could see.

While the adults were partying to celebrate our wins and awards, the other high schoolers - I was 17 at the time - and I sat 'round our cluster of air mattresses. I realized that I was foolish to think I wouldn't cry. 

Once I was old enough to walk, I started dancing hula. And before I could even dance, I started watching the Merrie Monarch festival. Each year, I watched the dancers and wished I could be on that stage. It was my dream .

My dream had been actualized. I lived it. What I thought was only an impossible wish became my reality. The hard work and dedication was much more intense that I could have ever imagined. The years I spent conjuring up scenarios of how I would feel was nothing compared to my actual experience. 

It was nothing I could have ever imagined, but it was so much more than anything I could ever expect. Hula is in my blood. It's a part of me. It's incredible how powerful the connection is with the culture, and it'll never cease to amaze me.

“Hula is the art of Hawaiian dance, expressing everything we hear, see, smell, taste, touch and feel. Hula is life.” 

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Category: Memory of the Week Finalist

A beautiful Hawaii themed memory of achieving a dream.