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How My Daughter’s Wish Undermined My Faith In The Validity Of Memories

slideWhenever I return to Michigan, I inevitably crave images from my childhood. I’ll see something, maybe a restaurant, that reminds me of something else, like the time there was a fight behind that restaurant, and that knocks over a long series of dominos where, in these instances, the dominos are memories of people and things they said to other people in places where things happened with still other people who I knew since the first grade and, as it happens, one of those people, Andy, fell off the red slide and needed 9 stitches just above his eye.

The red slide.

And for reasons that I don’t understand, a craving will develop that I’ll experience as a need. Man, I need to see that red slide. So I drive to the playground but the red slide is gone. I ask my Mom if she knows whatever happened to Andy and she says, shaking her head, that they found him all a mess in his trailer, dead for more than a week. And everything slows down. I become aware of where I am just then. The white couch. The blue vase. The way the carpet quietly speaks to my bare feet. Thoughts sneak through my mind. I catch a few and think them. Others see me thinking and disappear forever. This is not grief or even sadness. This is wondering if the things that happened ever happened and, if so, how so? Among other issues of epistemology.

*

Do you remember that time in Madrid, the moon, and all those candles? Me neither.

*

The kids stayed with me for 3 days and we went swimming and saw a movie and watched TV and I kept noticing myself noticing how gigantic they both were, compared to the memories of their infancy and toddlerhood that seem to populate my mind when the idea of “My Kids” presents itself to me. My kids crawl and smile with no teeth. They say “Juice! Juice! Juice!” when they’re thirsty. So this weird noticing myself noticing occurred in a way that felt sudden like waking from a dream where the dream in this case was the entire lives of my children up until now.

In addition to them inhabiting such larger bodies, they never cease to strike me as surprisingly sophisticated. If you’re not a parent, this may be hard to imagine but, for a long time, your kids are just these delicate little things you take care of, mostly by feeding them, rocking them to sleep, and taking them in and out of car seats. So when one or both of them engage me in a way that requires more than a basic level of mental processing, I split into one person who undergoes the required mental processing to stay engaged with them and another person who notices our sophisticated exchanges from the perspective of an awe that’s remarkably distinct from the awe you have in reaction to your kids when they’re merely things you keep alive. The latter awe seems to stem primarily from the fact that you actually made people, which never stops jamming a kink in your brain because making people seems like a thing you probably can’t do. The former awe, the one I kept recently experiencing, seems to stem from the fact that the people you made, no longer completely dependent on the care you provide, are now your equals or perhaps even your betters.

There’s no way to prove with any certainty that a red slide ever existed. Saturday, my daughter sighed and wished she was at camp.

____________

Read more from me at Black Hockey Jesus.

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