An Indelible Memory

May 6, 2010

I have this memory from my childhood. The kind of indelible, informative memory that is part of the toolbox we aren’t even aware we are filling when we are young. I see myself, barefoot and play-worn on the front porch. Below me, over the side brick lattice wall, facing the neighbor’s house, is my brother. In my memory he is around twelve years old, which would make me ten. It has begun to rain, and he is crying real tears, yelling into the rain and the oncoming storm that he is going to run away. I call to him though my own real tears, begging him to stay, to come where it is dry. But he refuses and runs, and I call out to him again — “Come back!” 

Do you see us there? Two blonde, dirty, wet children? It is not us you are seeing. We are play acting. In this memory, we and others have constructed a story. My brother is an orphan in our story. (Isn’t there always an orphan in such plays?) We have taken the orphan in, and yet he feels that he doesn’t belong. The details of that story have faded. They weren’t written down. They were improvised; and it was only in that moment that I called out for him to “come back” that I realized I had become someone else. We all had.

In that one crystalline moment, I had poured out my love and empathy to that character. Then I suddenly realized I was me again. There it was, love and empathy; and my heart was breaking anew for the gift I had been given in being able to show them to my brother/not brother. There I was, me again, pulling up the walls that protected me from my harsh surroundings. My brother came running back, himself once more, and we went inside to watch TV, never to speak of that moment again.

A nice thing…  moments that become essential tools in the box we carry. Tools for our survival and for the care of others.

One Response to “An Indelible Memory”

  1. kenhoney said

    A nice thing, indeed. Makes you wonder what happens to these things when our lives are over. These memories: what are they? In a very real way, we _are_ our memories. They are what make us human.

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