|Me, about age 4, at our Baldwin Park home.|
Once we'd moved away, we heard that Marty, by that time a scofflaw of five or so, had climbed into his father's gasoline tanker truck, released the hand brake and collided with the dairy at the end of the street. The good news, no explosion or great bodily harm to himself. The not as good news, there was nothing in the story to reassure the neighbors that whatever came next would not be worse.
At our new house, the one I lived in until leaving home at 18, my closest friend had two brothers, considerably older than we were, one of whom got into a scuffle at the local Bob's Big Boy Drive-in and ended up grabbing a deputy's gun out of his holster. No one was shot but what a lot of gossip at school and on the block. The same brother was later in a nearly-fatal motorcycle crash and used to scream at me about how he was almost "...pushing up daisies." I was glad not to have an angry, outlaw sort of brother, yet the time came when that was exactly the kind of man to whom I was doomed to be attracted. I am grateful to report surviving and recovering from that affliction.
Recently seeking a long-time chum, I visited the website dedicated to our high school graduating class. Our 50th reunion will be held next year. The looking resulted in an exchange of e-mails with one of the organizers whom I've known since grade school. He had information about students and staff from Longfellow Elementary. It was a pleasure to remember with him our town, our friends, the streets they used to live on...the first girl he kissed, a dog that bit me, when we discovered rock and roll. In the give-and-take of those memories, I felt my external self to be home to all the younger versions of me whom I could see clearly going about their six-year-old, eight-year-old, ten-year-old lives. I could feel in the center of my chest a connection to those not-vanished, nested like Russian dolls, variously-sized girls that I had been and, somehow, still was.
What to make of it, I'm not sure. For now it is enough to sit with the knowledge as I try and gain a wider perspective. It feels significant, the awareness of both holding and being our memories. There is an element, like a sacred trust, the grace of which allows us to act as both curators and exhibits in the museum of self.