Lost Time

Over the past forty years, my biological father may have remembered me now and again. He may have remembered my presence in the passing of a young, Khmer girl, a furrowed brow resembling my own even though she was not his daughter. He may have wondered how my mother and I were carrying on across the Delta, believing I was there with her the entire time. It’s hard to say. Either way, 42 years came and went without my knowing him or him, me, and now, more than ever, I feel that loss of time. I sometimes want to clutch those wisps of memory, like thin strands of pulled cotton-batting falling away from the much larger memory called family. I want to collect them as they lay pooled at my feet, stuffing their thinness in a clear jar I can hold on to. But really, there is nothing more than recollection, someone else’s telling of the story and all I can do is nod with understanding. But still, I do not understand. It was only me that lived on the other side of the world, with memories of my own to fill the pillows that cradle my head. In those four decades, I lost time.

But still, I am grateful. I have a memory, a thin strand of an ephemeral conversation, trailing behind me as I walked away on a dirt path that led me around spaces long-carved by deep rains, the depth and pressure of many delicate bare-feet, and tools that tilled the earth to make a living. I touched manmade dragon statues and stones stacked by hands that work and look like mine. I saw past and present and future in the thin faces of curiosity and hope and resemblance. I said nothing and felt everything. In those four decades, I lost time. But time has not lost me. I have it, still, to remember. I have it to gather the woolen textures of collective memory in the palms of calloused, dry hands that ache for a past and keep stretching towards the future. I have it to tell the story of time. Lost. And found.

Photo Credit: Mike Frailey
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Joie N. Lê

Joie Norby Lê is an educator, writer, and mother of three. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She is a guest speaker on qualitative research methods, diversity in the classroom, and topics related to Viet Nam's orphans of war. She geeks out on poststructural philosophy and historical fiction.

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