As children we dream of being adults. As adults we long for childhood. Lost in routines, washed away in laundry, and mowed under in the lawn, optimism and imagination suffocate. It makes me nauseous. The vibrancy of breathing replaced by the mechanical ticking heart of time clocks. I weep for the child in us all.
I remember things I shouldn’t. At three years old we had a small rented house: front porch games with girls from across the street, railroad tracks in the back yard. That house must have rattled when they passed. I only remember not going as close as I’d have liked. Mom’s watchful eye kept me safe.
In first grade I spent a lot of Fridays in detention. I liked to talk in class. One Friday, a fellow trouble maker went to the bathroom without asking. He was promptly yelled at. Afraid to ask permission, I held my pee. I held it until it leaked onto the floor and me an island.
I wrote a love letter to my first real crush. Our desks were next to one another in fourth grade. Daily my heart fluttered and blood rushed to my face. She never mentioned the letter, but years later I heard she had kept it in her diary. A more meaningful text has never been written.
My parents separated when I was in high school. I should have been strong enough to take the change. I should have been “man enough” to accept the inevitable. Instead, I took it as an affront: a kick to the gut and betrayal on the highest level. My childhood superheroes were stripped of their might.
Hunger, heartbreak, and childhood memories all feel the same. A rumbling deep in my gut. An emptiness that needs quenching. Sometimes it feels sad, other times it’s anger. An intense longing for what we have lost. Eventually I learned that the emptiness is not about “losing” anything. The emptiness is a reminder we are alive.
Writing on the Wall
As a child I scratched, “I HATE DADDY” into the wall. The coppery edge of a penny was my tool of choice. The pain in my father’s eyes was indescribable. I forgot this until my own son spoke to me. With clear blue eyes he said, “Daddy, I don’t love you anymore.”
Suddenly I understood.
Last weekend my five year old rode his bike without training wheels. The same green grass where I had learned, rolled smoothly under his wheels. The same trees that quietly observed my childhood became a part of his. The pride in his blue eyes reflected the same endless sky that had once filled my own.
Functions of Memory
I’ve read that memories are you remembering the last time you recalled an event. In that case, all we know has been polluted by our ever-changing attitudes. Perhaps, this is untrue. Perhaps, our memories are the driving force of personal changes. Maybe the distortion is not in our memories, but within the choices we make.
Someday I will lay awake wondering if I led a good life. I will ruminate about my children and the adults they have become. I hope those are good thoughts. I dream I will lay awake not because of pain, but from the keen intensity of being alive. Then I will cry tears of joy.