Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Memory

How is one suppose to look at his childhood? In an ideal setting, what would one's memories look like?

A single impression lands occasionally of a time long passed. Usually it is sparked by a consideration of one of my children - usually Isaiah - my oldest boy. He has a PA day tomorrow. We didn't call them that back then, but they meant one thing to me, perhaps two: one, a joy that no adult could really ever feel, of freedom, excitment, reprieve and possibility; two, and this is the melancholic in me appearing: a simultaneous realization that just as suddenly as freedom dawned it would end, and find me, as on any Sunday evening, baffled at how quickly the weekend had passed, and how stupid I was not to have done my homework on Saturday.

To me freedom was outside, somewhere, on a crisp autumn day-turned-evening. Life was 7 degrees. It was trees with just a few leaves remaining, whose branches swayed gently in the October dusk. It meant my toy gun, in my hand or my backpack. It lighted up and made a sound that to me represented power, and danger and adventure, and odds, despite being heavily stacked against me, odds, which only I could overcome. My brothers must have had their own mind about these things. I think my younger brother had the same sense of imagination that ruled over me in those days. What about Kevin - was he off counting money somewhere?

I was the type of kid who always left the theatre sad. Pessimism personified. I loved the make-believe world of Star Wars so much that life outside the theatre seemed a cruel joke. But sooner or later I'd be out, reliving what I had seen, running behind trees and the side of houses and fences, a hero for our time.

Newman said something about the poetry of youth turning into the prose of adulthood; that it is necessary. One gets the hint, and I'd agree with the suggestion, that there is a deep loss in this. Yet, were I confronted with the chance of returning to that October evening life, I wouldn't. Now I just wish for it for my kids, while knowing that for me to remove for them the threat of homework would not only wreak the sweetness of those evenings, but keep them in a state of suspended childhood, out of which they'd never emerge, and thus never be able to give their own children those most precious evenings, slaughtering Stormtroopers.

Why are memories so sad? Is it their loss we lament or their original silliness? Is to be a child to be a victim in the world of adults, or is it to be master of the universe?

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