Friday, July 15, 2011

Continuity

And then it was now...

My neglected blog fears that I've developed carpal tunnel syndrome or joined a cloistered order.

A thuggish cold/virus, with malice aforethought, set upon me and stole not only my breathing but any clarity of thought I possessed. I have been muddled and hazy since Sunday, about which I wanted to report. On Sunday morning I got to talk with the woman who became my first school friend when I joined her kindergarten class mid-year. As I was being introduced to the line of other end-of-the-war babies, I remember her stepping forward and offering me a piece of candy. We have known each other for 51 years; our birthdays are two days apart.

What hopscotched around in my head following our talk was the word continuity. Like Charles Baker "Dill" Harris coming to visit every summer in To Kill A Mockingbird, like knowing there would be Cornish pasties and sweet mixed pickles at any picnic my grandmother planned, like shopping for school supplies at Kress five and dime, certainties make us feel less adrift.

I am fortunate in having as a constant presence in my life since junior high, a friend first met in the fifth grade. She has seen and aided me through my worst moments, her mother's was the only adult voice to try and talk me out of a doomed first marriage at 18, and we still laugh (or cry) together every week. An ocean has separated us for more than 30 years but her gift for remaining in touch and her uninhibited willingness to travel...wherever...have given us grown-up adventures not too unlike our adolescent forays.

In the Sunday phone conversation, hearing someone speak of my parents as she knew them then, still young, gave credence to my memories. Which is not to say I had forgotten anything about them, it was simply confirmation that, I suppose, I didn't dream my life: it happened. It was not so much any specific event but the fact that we had been there together, that we could, hand over hand, rewind that ball of yarn and find ourselves at the same spot. Her recognizable voice and recollections helped anchor my tent so, rather than worrying that it could be carried off by some rogue gust, I could sit calmly and contemplate my world. A real world.

Thanks to Best Cupcake Recipes for the photo, not our Brownie troop but close enough.

That I also can depend on my somewhat younger brother to verify recollections has steadied me again and again. In a mind prone to fabrication, as the process for building a sentence or an illustration, questions naturally murmur...is THIS as invented as THAT, is there more embellishment than fact in this scene I think I recall?

Continuity means not only substantiation, it means exactly what it says: that in some form whatever was has support to continue. Back to the belief that we contain all our younger selves, that we are the aggregate of all moments, and, as a friend calls them, enlightened witnesses shore up the belief that we are who we think we are. As I write this, I feel I would give anything to have my less than five-foot-tall grandmother beside me, testifying, by her presence and arm around my shoulders, to the truth of souvenirs my heart carries from our hours and years together. Continuity is the difference between being the escaped helium balloon drifting toward the sun and the bobbing Mickey Mouse head tied firmly to my wrist.

In a life which now dances on without so many of the people who have mattered, to be affirmed as something greater than a ghost of my own imagining by someone who was there carries a gift I didn't know I was missing. Age does run its sly con game on us, it can turn us around and undermine our knowing, especially if some of our real history has elements of the fantastic.

Knowing too little about, I suppose the field would be physics leaves me defending on one leg the wonder of human life which is both the vessel carrying all previous moments and the unseen force of continual change; our two halves, conjoined twins, what was and is and what is becoming. That any of us blunders on in a state other than confusion is the miracle. Or maybe other people don't see it this way. That once caused me mild concern. Now I seem better equipped to embrace my unprovable theories. I've given up trying to pass for normal.

16 comments:

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nice post. I can relate.


I hope you feel better.

RachelVB said...

It's nice to see a friendship enduring such distances. I've lost many because of them - my wanderings all over the country, marriages (theirs), life changes, etc. My longest close relationship, minus the one I have with my family, is my boyfriend going on 10 years in September (or is it 9?) Either way, it's been a long time. But 50! What an amazing friendship. When such connections are made, they are kept forever despite how far we each may go.
It reminds me of a Rainer Maria Rilke quote I wrote in a good friend's birthday card - I may be moving away from her at some point and it seemed like something good to hold on to, that we could survive a distance:
"Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky." -Rilke
xo

WV: blista (bliss+vista?)

Antares Cryptos said...

Memories, distorted by perception. It is nice when someone remembers the same.

Physics or neuroscience, part of the whole.

I hope you feel better soon. A summer cold seems like an oxymoron.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I have lost all connection to my childhood life, no remaining friends or anyone I know living in my boyhood town (on the San Francisco peninsula).

My oldest friend Scott is from college, his birthday is the day after mine; I chide him a lot about being his "elder" by one day.

I am estranged from my younger sister who chooses to recreate a happy fictional Leave It To Beaver suburban household and dismiss the tyrant and abuser that my father really was. The chasm between my sister and me is a long story in itself.

Suffice it to say, childhood memories consist of the few kodachrome slides and grainy prints my sister allowed me to have. Does it even matter, I wonder?

Vespersparrow said...

How lucky you are, Marylinn, to have a child from the days when you both wore pinafores, whom you can turn to and without speaking you can ask, 'Was it like this?' and she would reply, "yes, that was how it was."
That rare continuity, that used to be so common, is irrepaceable. Your friends knows all of your nested selves, has seen you grow from one to the next, has been with you through the triumphs, the mistakes, from whom nothing is secret, and all is accepted and known. She is a sister without all the anguish that Robert the Skeptic and I myself experiience with a blood sister. Glad for you, Marylinn, xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Thank you. And I do feel better, as though I have my mind here with me, not left on the the bus.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Thank you for the Rilke quote which suggests to me that part of the mystery of friendship is being able to see ourselves, too, as whole against the sky. I have not been a reliable correspondent, nor efficient keeper of things like addresses and have lost track of people because of that. Years pass before we notice. I owe thanks to the detectives on our high school reunion committee...Bill, you know who you are. xo

Jayne said...

Marylinn- I understand this so well. I have one good friend from high school who I can still count on to remind of where I came, of how she remembers my father, and what kind of crazy young girls we were.

That connection, the continuity, has become rarer as we have become more mobile, and, often, meaningful employment means traveling across the country.

You're very fortunate to have a friend from those early formative days. Those calls are a God send.

Hope you're feeling much better. :-)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares-Cryptos - Memories, distorted, reconfigured...the even greater affirmation, perhaps, is that one WAS. It does not easily lend itself to describing. I think of BLADE RUNNER, the created, programmed childhood, former life. Sometimes I suffer from "think too much." And a summer cold...cannot think when I last had one. Much better now, thanks. :D

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Memory matters, as I puzzle it out, for it is such a significant part of what builds a sense of self. I am sorry for your sister's estrangement; even when one pretends the happy childhood, the effects of what was true endure. As years pass, I am even more aware of the gift of my brother - our sister, too, has chosen to separate herself from us. I understand people who have kept journals for their entire lives. For me, it is way too late to start and I never felt a sense of the importance of each moment. I will rely on friends and my own imperfect mind, trust I have the knowledge I need. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - And I believe at least one of us, not me, did wear a pinafore...it is one of the images I retain. I know the value of long-time friends, whether we have been in continual touch or have just caught up after many years apart. Sometimes the friend can identify the truth while we are still trying make everything nice. Someone saying, yes, it was like that...what a relief. When a family member chooses to withdraw, to pretend amnesia, it is a source of grief that is awfully slow to heal. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Thank you, yes, feeling much better and I wish you the same. Until the call last Sunday, I had not thought about continuity in the way. For one thing, it has made me more compassionate toward the holiday traditions - foods, activities, tree lights - that mean so much to my son. I am coming back, a year at a time, to seeing the importance of continuity. Even if it is illusion - and who can say, with something so intangible - to embrace it gives us the sense of connection to what has passed but lives on in our hearts and imaginations. We play so many roles in each others' lives, don't we? xo

Erin in Morro Bay said...

In the last 10 years or so, many long ago friends have fallen out of touch, both my parents have passed and my dear brother also, and a younger sister has decided that the fact of my being married to a woman should sever our relationship. My older sister, though, she of the dry and ready wit-so much like our mother's-emails regularly and we often quiz each other with "Do you remember...?"
My life in the here and now is blessed beyond belief, but there is so much from then that makes me who I am today and so many from then that are dearly missed.
Erin

Isabel Doyle said...

Thank you for this post - hope you are feeling better.

I think the lack of continuity and place/anchorage is one of the hardest things about my gypsy life.

Best wishes, Isabel x

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - That is it exactly, so much from then that makes me, too, what I am today and so many who are missed; huge swaths of time for which no witnesses remain, impactful moments that are now fixed in time as I recall them, whether or not that is what really took place. As the world goes forward in its fashion, I feel called upon to embrace rather than turn from any with whom I ever had a difference. I wish that were universally true. To spend our finite time and needed energy on anything other than harmony makes no sense to me. The older I grow, the more simple I become. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Isabel - I'm on the road to being better, thank you. Gypsy ways have their appeal, I know, the possibility of adventure and newness always at hand...but that was not my path, or perhaps I mistook the crossroads. I do have continuity of place, no matter how much it has changed around me. I can only guess the extent of my disorientation without that as an anchor. Good days, xo