Memories are rising to the surface today as I sit and reflect on an unremarkable life. I am thinking about a neighborhood water fight, it’s 1973 and I’m in the first grade, the summer before or the summer after. Just a water fight, squirt guns and water balloons and kids of all ages chasing each other around a quiet neighborhood. I wore a shirt emblazoned with a puffy, plastic Snoopy in shades, with ‘Joe Cool’ above his head.
Or playing in the snow, a couple feet of it, in our backyard. I am wearing some playtime cowboy gloves, with big cuffs trimmed with fringe. Bundled up for warmth but with some silly cowboy gloves! I just liked them and wanted to play in them, that’s all.
Or running through the haunted house my family had made in our basement (still in the first or second grade). My brother-in-law Burt played a scary character, that’s the only detail I recall, except for running through it with my friend John, us holding hands for courage!
And all of these memories bring up a feeling of wistfulness….Now, I don’t hold onto these memories as being ‘the good old days’. They induce good feelings, as they are fun memories, and I enjoy writing them out and sharing them. But just like the memories which are less fun, they are all just windows into my life, into who I’ve been and what led me to this place.
….Just the other day, my love asked me if I ever expected life as an adult to be like this; ‘like this’ meaning what we go through as grown-ups, the daily routines of caring for a household, the joy and the pain of living. I could not scrape together any memory of such an expectation or vision of adulthood. The only clear memory I have in which I am a kid thinking of adulthood was from a moment in which I am watching my dad goof around and make my mother laugh; in that moment I wondered if I’d ever feel so comfortable with someone as to be free to be so silly.
But the response that came up for me when she asked me that, was that as a kid I could not imagine the complexity of life. Of course, it is not for a child to comprehend. I could not imagine the depth of emotion one can feel: towards another individual, towards a beloved furry companion. I had no way to measure memory; my life of just a few years could not see the scope of time that I can at fifty, memories stretching far back into the past, the future still expanding out before me. I could not imagine having interests and passions that captivate me to the point that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to indulge in them. I could not imagine the energy one can feel, the lust for life that propels one through the days, weeks, etc. So no, I never expected anything of adulthood, but I could neither expect life to be like it is.
And with that in mind, I look back on those simple childhood memories, snow-play and water fights, and how sweet they are. And the innocence and simplicity of it all makes me want to cry. Not out of sadness, really, but out of love for the child who really can only know so much, being so young and new to the world. Tears for the child who believes in love, without being able to put it into such words and without needing to. This innocence, I must argue, has its own depth and resonating power. I do not demean it by calling it simple, I honor and cherish it, the mystery of it all.