Coping with past trauma through childhood memories

I still like bubblegum and that’s okay

I still like bubblegum and that’s okay Photo Katreena Di Muro-Rincher

I had a pretty normal childhood, with two houses and two pink bedrooms, I would stay one week at my mom’s and one at my dad’s, and had plenty of love.

During Christmas time I would get twice as many gifts and twice as much cake on my birthday. During the summers with my mom, I spent my days in the pool playing Marco Polo. With my dad, I spent weeks camping and making wishes on every shooting star. My favourite dish was shepherd’s pie, and my favourite dessert was Hubba Bubba gum. I associate many memories with this gum, from jump rope to riding my pink bicycle with tasselled handles. I always kept a stick of bubble gum in my pocket. It brought me joy to blow an enormous bubble in an attempt to break the world record.

I was a pretty smart kid with lots of friends, always smiling, bubblegum in my mouth. I had a lot to say, and not much to complain about. But that stamped smile slowly started to fade.

In 2008, at the age of 6 years old, my father got sick.  I vividly remember the printed number that he put on the refrigerator door. “911,” he said in a soft, shaky voice, “If you ever see me not feeling good, I need you to call this number. It is important.” His head was covered with small blisters from a previous skin sample collection. This was the first time I witnessed my father cry. He comforted me with love and loads of bubblegum to try and make me forget the worry I had been feeling

Then, in January 2010, the Haiti earthquake came around.

I remember the look on my mom’s face, she had this expression of worry, exhaustion, and sadness—one that she tried to hide when I was around. She was on the phone, praying to get some news from relatives, especially her mother, and all those she had lost contact with. That year, I saw my mom enter a very dark place. In the attempt of making her feel better, I became a proud part-time personal assistant and as a reward, she would buy me my favourite gum Hubba Bubba.

During that same year, when I was about to turn nine years old, I received a call—it was about my mom who went to the United States to visit some family members. The woman that had brought me into this world had been hit by a truck on the highway. My heart was shattered into pieces as I did not know if she was going to survive.

Fortunately, she survived but suffered some injuries, such as an injured shoulder, that are still compromising her life today.

My usual grunts of disapproval of being asked to unload the dishwasher, quickly turned into, “yes mommy,” as I knew that she needed her “favourite helper” as she often said. More than ever my mom needed me, and I knew it. I was ecstatic to help because I knew that her state would not permit her to complete those tasks.

To alleviate all of the stress I had been carrying on my shoulder, I would get that one piece of bubble gum ritually and enjoy that small moment of sweetness.

Writing this story brought me to tears, I have had difficulty healing from those experiences and I believe that I never fully had the opportunity to do so as a child because I was too focused on healing my mother first.

I still want to hop in puddles with bright yellow rain boots and eat tubs of Oreo ice cream and I would be lying if I said that I did not want to marathon all of the old Barbie movies. Chewing Bubble gum in my pink bedroom, in my new home, has been the way to heal my inner child.

I am still confronted by those memories therefore never allowing me to properly heal as I can only imagine my younger self hopelessly trying to appease my mother's pain. But I learned to be unapologetic about my healing process. I still like Hubba Bubba and I still often carry it in my pocket, as a reminder of the good times, of camping trips and starry nights.