The Decision to Plumb My Childhood
We set the dead aside as if we have no use for them. But I wanted to pluck my people out of time, to borrow them from eternity for a little while, to explore their worlds and to finally understand them. I had lived among them, knew their every gesture, had heard them speak so many times, and wondered greatly about them. But I didn’t know who they really were.
I longed to walk through the house in which I grew up and to look out on the street and see the wealth of familiar things that were before me every day in my youth, no sights as dear to me as what I saw from the kingdom of my porch.
I hoped to find as they had been, the people who had populated my world–to be among them again, to feel for them tenderness and pity and regret. I knew that time hadn’t disappeared, but had remained inside me. I realized that if I wanted to be with them, though most had died, I would have to discover them in myself where they still lived.
I wanted to see things as they were before my memories faded, or I died; to recapture the enchanted past; to walk the streets and beaches of my youth whose minutest detail I knew I would find waiting for me. I wanted to hold my father’s hand again, to look into his kind eyes. I wanted to revel in everything–the sounds of familiar voices, the smells of night air, the traces of my mother’s dinner in my mouth, the sight of her trying on a hat; my dead sister Sharon coming up the stairs–all from a time that was so happy.
I wanted to reconstruct my life by traveling backwards in time. I hoped to find there the origins of my mistakes, some indications of why I was now a person alone in a house by a field. I wanted my memory to rescue me from this house; to reveal lessons I had forgotten and must learn again that would help sustain me.
And so hour after hour, again and again, I remembered the days and nights of childhood. I remembered what I had experienced myself and what had been told to me. When I came upon something that didn’t make sense to me, and I couldn’t explain, or didn’t remember clearly, or couldn’t possibly know I used my imagination.
At first my remembering was over in a few minutes and was very general. But then I slowed down and remembered in finer and finer detail. Detail is the secret I discovered– details and details of details. Over and over, hour after hour, moving in ever closer, backing up and rethinking until I was satisfied and could say, “Yes, that is how it was when I was young. I have gotten it right.”
I wanted to do this very carefully; to take my time and not be in a hurry. My whole life had been a battle with time, but time doesn’t die absolutely, but remains in memory. The recreation by memory of impressions which later must be transformed is the essence of every work of art.
When my mind was free in time I had the impression that I had entered eternity.
© 2014 David J. Rogers