memory is a green and living thing
some things i have to write down because i will forget them as the days pass.
some things i never forget.
you know how i so often write about not forgetting what it was like to be a child? this seems to me to be the root of so much pain and misunderstanding. on both sides.
when i say not forgetting, i mean a few things. i mean remembering how transparent liars are when you are a child. the reasons given for why you can’t stop at the park, or why you had to follow some directive given. and, more unsettling, the justifications adults used to get by day after day. the lies told about why things were the way they were.
the “reasons” given for why it wasn’t okay to laugh too loudly in public, or to wear clothes that didn’t “match.” the poor excuses given for why we had to act a certain way or not act a certain way; or why we had to adhere to some type of rule that, clearly, wasn’t even truly embraced by the adult. those types of contrivances were the most glaring as a child; when the person telling you the lie didn’t believe it themselves.
these were strange perversions of truth, indeed. seemingly senseless. they were not the magical shifting of identity and purpose and costume we children did with our playacting and impromptu skits—pretensions immediately appealing and constructive. these were disturbing violations of reality, these rationales that adults stuttered out, a clouded look in their eyes, their desperation and potential anger palpable. JUST DO IT, they’d say, finally resorting to force. these moments they imagined escaped our notice, but instead were branded deep into our minds. what was wrong with them? why were they so confused? the disconnect between their words and their feelings was obvious, but as children, we didn’t have the power to ask them to explain why they’d enforce ideas that they didn’t understand. or why being questioned evoked such panic in our protectors.
but Not Forgetting is not just not forgetting, now that i think about it. also figured into this awareness i describe is a perspective that only time passing can bring—like how important forbidding a child from wearing her fireman’s hat at the table will seem after a year, after ten years. you might think back after a decade or two and wonder why on earth you didn’t just agree to take the route that passed by the big mural in town. you won’t be able to remember why saying no was so important to you. all you will remember are the tears and the frustration on the face of the child. they might not remember any of it. but you will collect these memories. and they will tell you things about yourself, about truth, and about life. if you dare listen.
when you heal both these sides of memory together, the answers seem to be spelled out rather plainly.
most adults steal magic from children, one senseless edict and excuse after another. it’s almost as if they are so angry about the lines on their faces—or the pounds on their bellies, or the dead-end job, or the dreams left untouched—that they want the children to bear every possible regret and anxiety, and fast. where we can all see it happen. it’s as if, without even realizing it, we scramble as fast as we can to lay down heaviness upon their spine because their airborne spirits confront our own weariness; as if we seek to hastily erode their intuition because it might tell them too much. and though my words assign intention…i don’t think when this happens it is intentional. perhaps that is the most chilling part. this deadening of the senses; this killing off of intuition and imagination…it’s like a virus. handed down from one person to the next…to the next…to the next. and conscious intent need never even enter the picture.
i won’t be one of those.
that’s what i thought as a child. that’s what i thought, peering up into the adult world. i will never forget the way i see things now.
it was hard for me as a child to look at most adults and believe they had ever been children. something happened to them.
something happens to us.
we let ourselves gradually be convinced that everything we once imagined was no more than a dream…instead of a map to the last escape pod; a sacred blueprint smuggled at great peril past both graveyard and veil.