Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Lock and Key (08/21/14)
- TITLE: The Memory Keeper
By Leola Ogle
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Hushed whispers surrounded her. “She is the one, the next Memory Keeper.”
Mamaw was not happy. Bettu heard her talking to Dadaw. “She can never take a man. Never have babies. She will live with Great-Maw now, to learn the ways of a Memory Keeper.” Mamaw cried for days. Later Bettu heard that Mamaw had given up hope of having children. Then after many years, Bettu was born.
Because the gift had skipped a generation, the village feared the end of Memory Keepers. Great-Maw was getting old and feeble. The village history would be lost without a Memory Keeper.
“Your days will be spent gathering memories. Many things just come to you. Others you must see and hear. Lock these memories in your mind. Never share what you know. Your key for telling only comes from Chief and Spirit Healer. Once a year at the Gathering you’ll share the memories for the past year.” Great-Maw talked while walking through the village, Bettu at her side.
“But Great-Maw, sometimes things do not come clear to me.”
“Your gift will not be powerful until I join our departed ancestors, young one.”
Bettu bit her lip, hesitant to say what was on her heart. Great-Maw sensed it, stopped and said, “Speak.”
“I miss Mamaw and Dadaw. What if I don’t want to be Memory Keeper?”
Whack! Before Bettu could blink, Great-Maw hit her with her walking stick. When Bettu whimpered, the stick hit her again. “You will anger the Great Spirits. It is an honor to be chosen. You are revered like Chief and Spirit Healer.”
Bettu was ten when her friend, Uro, asked about his dadaw who had not returned for many days from fishing. In her memory, Bettu knew a panther had killed him. When she told Uro, he shrieked and ran away.
Bettu had committed a grievous violation. She had taken a memory and without permission from Chief or Healer, told the knowledge to Uro. For punishment, she was banned from the village for a week without food.
The only good thing about the banishment was that Mamaw slipped away each night to visit her. She brought food, but because of her shame, Bettu refused to eat. “It’s no gift you have, Bettu, it is a curse,” Mamaw whispered.
Bettu gasped. “Mamaw, hush.”
Tears came to Mamaw’s eyes. “I told your dadaw and he slapped me. In here,” Mamaw touched her chest, “I feel there is something more.”
“Go, Mamaw, before we’re punished for your thoughts.”
Bettu watched Mamaw’s slumped shoulders as she walked away. She vowed to guard the memory of Mamaw’s words with her own lock and key.
Great-Maw joined their departed ancestors in Bettu’s twentieth year. She was the youngest to become the village Memory Keeper. With full responsibility, came something new. Along with the knowledge of all that happened, she felt the emotions of those involved. Some days the weight of it tormented and crushed her, causing her to writhe and cry out in her sleep.
Before Bettu’s first Gathering as Memory Keeper, a man with different skin came to their village. He carried a black book and spoke of Jesus. Bettu was surprised that he spoke their language, although brokenly.
Bettu felt the villagers fear, hatred, anger and uncertainty about this man called Matthew. Chief had him beaten and bound to a tree. Curiosity drew Bettu to him. She sensed Chief and Spirit Healer planned to kill Matthew.
Restless, she ventured one night to the tree, shocked to see Mamaw giving Matthew water and food. Staying hidden, Bettu watched Mamaw and Matthew conversing. With heavy heart, she crept back to her hut, knowing that the next day she must tell Chief about Mamaw.
Now Bettu is an old woman with children and grandchildren. The memory of that night in the village lingers. Mamaw embraced Matthew’s Jesus. She had bargained with Matthew. If she freed him, he was to take her and Bettu away. “I must save my Bettu,” Mamaw said.
Seven years after that night, Bettu returned to her village with Matthew, not as Memory Keeper, but as his wife. Matthew told her the spirits that made her Memory Keeper were not good spirits. Released from their influence, Bettu felt joyously free.
Many in her village, including Chief, accepted Jesus. Forever, this memory warmed Bettu’s heart.
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