Along the Way. . .
Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”
By Steven Maisenbacher
I am not sure where they go or how they are stored in our minds, but I am amazed at the things I can remember and the flashes of things that stand out when I let my mind wander thru my memories. For instance, I remember the cold of an Illinois winter and trying to ride my crazy car. It was a 3-wheeled device you sat in and propelled with the turning by hand of these 2 big wheels on the sides of you. It was yellow and the 2 big wheels you sat recumbently between were bright red with these handles you kinda rowed. Anyway, I remember trying to ride it thru the snow and ice on a sidewalk. I may have been 7 or 8.
I remember my 9th birthday. The night of July 20th, 1969, my dad took my brother Bob and me to Shaheen’s dirt track to watch the sprint cars. It was a balmy night with a huge moon. I remember it like yesterday, the sights the conversations, the smells, it was a magical night for a little boy when the race announcer said Hey!! Look up there at that moon!! That man is waving at us! It was the night that Neil Armstrong took the steps and made his famous “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind” speech. I remember snippets and snatches of things, mostly just kid stuff. What is hardest for me to remember are the moments leading up to and the moments of when I was doing bad things, the kinds of things that led me to this life and this prison.
I think maybe it’s because I don’t want to remember those things, or those moments, I don’t want to re-live the trauma and horror of the actions I committed. I don’t want to face the faces of terror that I subjected other humans, innocent humans too. I only want to beg their forgiveness and move on with my life, my upcoming release.
It’s not like I haven’t been making new memories, good ones. I have. There’s the secret feeling of accomplishment when I won the administrative remedy I had to file in order to get “Native American history” passed as an accepted curriculum here in the B.O.P. Then the further wonderful feeling of actually putting the sign in sheets out and having the desire for my class be so great in the institution that I had to give the course twice, back to back, when they limited the class to 30 and I had over 100 inmates sign up wanting to take the class that “that old Indian guy” was teaching. This to me is a memory, and a good one.
I remember how good it felt and how the accomplishment of doing something that I felt was important and needed to be done cloaked me with a certain self-joy that I can only describe as “better than drugs,” the same feeling I get in the renewal of my strength, spirit and convictions after a good hot sweat lodge ceremony, or the feeling I get when I hear someone I care about tell me they love me, and even as much as the feeling I enjoy when I’m unashamedly able to say “I love you” back.
Its things like this and the memories they make in our minds that are strong enough to taste and feel. I cannot tell you what it feels like to have a new car, or a nice place to live of my own, or the simple security that would (I’m sure) come from knowing that you had the means and funds to pay rent and get food. These are memories I would like to someday make, and with Tunkashila’s blessings I will. But until then I guess I will just revel in the abandon that is my old/new memories, taking solace in the ability to find the value and the beauty of the simple fact that I can “conjure” them up when I’m in need of a smile and there’s no one around to help me out with the loan of a grin or two.
Some say of the time in here there isn’t anything to smile about. I say bull dookie to that, if you are alive, if you have the ability to reach inside your mind and pluck out something that made you feel good and of worth, that made you smile and sort of laugh, then there is something to smile about, and that something is you.
The amazing things you are capable of, the wonder of it all, your ability to overcome adversity, to beat down the fears and anxieties that come with life and make yourself “grow thru it, and smile when you have. I Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher say there is something to smile about, and I think we all owe debts of gratitude to our “memories.”
I think I’ll try to remember that…
© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, 2021