Memories of a little girl

20 Sep

me at 3

My memories go as far back as age 3, but I started remembering my thoughts at age 6. My first distinct thought memory is walking into our country club with my dad, talking about how the Olympics would come to Atlanta when I was 12, and just knowing that it would never happen because that was double my life lived so far. And here we are, 18 years after that, and I’m not sure the person inside my head has changed very much. Since then my perception of things has changed  (I’m taller), as has my knowledge (I’ve read more), but I am generally the same girl with the same thoughts. I’m just supposed to act now like I’m 29, not 6. It gets easier to do as time goes by.

Just like it’s hard to tell an almost-mother what it’s going to really be like when her baby gets here, you can’t go around telling people and expecting them to listen: “Hey, years will pass and you will live your life regardless but you might come to a day when you realize you made a mistake 15 years ago and there is nothing you can do about it now, because this is it. This is life. You only get this one chance (supposedly).” I think this is how mid-life crises happen. Or those pesky quarter-life crises. Or depression any time.

I’m finally finishing up a book on the Civil War I’m supposed to be reading with a friend but it’s taking me so long to get through it that I’m afraid he’s given up on me (I read whole other books in between sentences of the battle strategy chapters). The penultimate chapter on Lincoln is fascinating. At the age of 31 he contemplated suicide (he had always been prone to melancholia) but he didn’t do it because he thought hadn’t done anything yet that would make anyone in the world remember that he had lived. And oh what a life he had after that moment! A life that only came about because of all the moments he spent reading and making mistakes and growing up and living.

So far my greatest accomplishment is Walter, a person who will surely remember me after I am gone. We were practicing walking outside, as the weather in Atlanta is beautiful in these early autumn days, and I was thinking about how I will remember these times to share with him when he gets older and asks about what he was like as a baby, but he has another two years probably before he starts remembering anything himself. We can do the most fun and beautiful things, and it matters because it will help shape him into who he becomes, regardless of his memory.

Walt could end up with a memory more like his father’s than my faulty one. At times I can remember only the bad in my past; other times only the good. It is never a clean mix. So most of the time I try to live in the present, write down the past worth remembering, and let the rest of the energy return to the world to be used elsewhere. And when I start getting panicky that I’m not doing enough in my life, I try to remember that I still have time to become president, free a nation’s worth of enslaved people, and change the world. Or at least something similar. Maybe I’ll sew the world into a better, happier place.

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