kate lewis  



The memory thief came for my grandmother when I was sixteen. We were cleaning up from lunch, the sandwich crumbs just swept from the laminate countertop, the crinkled plastic bag of bread wrapped and stored out of sight. She gripped the rims of the slim stack of green porcelain dishes, her knuckles paper white, stark against the translucence of her hand. She placed them carefully into the cabinet, closed the door, and then paused in the immaculate kitchen, quiet for a long moment before turning back to me, tears shimmering at the edges of her eyes.

I can’t believe it, she said. I forgot to feed you.

No amount of kind adamance would persuade her otherwise. She cried, convinced she had failed me. I ate a second lunch, each swallow an attempt to change the truth.   



The thief comes for my father now. A dented birthday package arrives addressed to my daughter. Inside is a child’s battery-powered drawing pad, perfect for an artistic almost-six-year-old. There’s just one problem. It isn’t her birthday – it’s mine.

When I call to press him on it, gently, the way you’d probe around the tender boundaries of a wound, he has explanations. Rationales. I let him keep them, because soon I know those might be all that’s left to hold. It’s a terrifying thing, to be confronted with what’s been taken. You grasp tightly to anything that’s left.



My children gather into my lap at bedtime, fresh from the bath, their hair damp and scented faintly with coconut. It is my favorite time of day, when they are soft and sleepy and snuggled against my shoulders while we read whimsical tales of talking bears, frogs and toads, purple crayons, daring princesses and pink-clad little girls.

There was a time when they both easily fit onto my lap, when as babies and toddlers they each chose a side of my body as theirs and stuffed themselves into the rocking chair to claim it. Those days are cherished memories now, alive only in the videos and photos I relentlessly gather, an attempt to guard against their being stolen.

Someday, there will come a night when they don’t want stories, when they don’t want to press close and let me hold them. We three are almost too big now for the confines of a twin bed. Someday, there will come a time when my favorite days are only a memory.

Someday further, the thief will come for me, and I’ll lose those, too.



There are stories I’d be happy to forget, the fraught memories still with me despite my best efforts to set them loose. The break-ups, betrayals. Mistakes and regrets. The time I briefly turned my back on my daughter when she was a toddler to set down our belongings at a hotel pool, to painstakingly arrange the cabana-striped towel across the lounger, to set my flip-flops carefully beneath for the protection of the shade. I turned back moments – lifetimes – later to find her fully submerged, her eyes the same sharp blue as the crystalline water, wide with surprise. No fear.



Already my mind betrays me. My daughter wore sunglasses, the day she almost drowned. I never saw her eyes beneath the surface; not once.  



Already I search for words, on the tip of my tongue, words I’ve known and said my whole life. When they arrive, fully formed, they are encased in a surge of triumph. I am winning.


Left unsaid are two more words: for now.



I wonder if, when my turn arrives at last, each day will unfold like a revelation. If instead of fear, instead of grief, it will be like looking up to the sky from beneath the shifting surface of that water, the world I knew distorted and wavering, flowing around me until it and I am gone, until I am left with no memories at all. Until I am the memory, and the only memory is me.



Author Bio

Kate Lewis lives along the tidewaters of Coastal Virginia with her husband, their two young children, and a mischief-making dog. A former celebrity publicist, she has lived everywhere from West Hollywood to Washington, D.C., with stints in Florence, Orlando, and Tokyo along the way. Her essays on motherhood and life have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostGood Housekeeping, Romper, and more, with literary work forthcoming in Literary Mama and River Teeth. She is a recipient of the Perry Morgan Fellowship at Old Dominion University, a reader for Barely South Review, and also writes The Village on Substack. Find her online @katehasthoughts.