Saturday, April 15, 2006

Childhood Memory

Let's reflect on childhood. MY childhood. When I think of being a kid, in 1977-80 or so, there are always constants. It is ALWAYS a Saturday afternoon and I've just finished watching back-to-back classic Abbot & Costello and Tarzan episodes on Channel 3. I'm ALWAYS outside where it is early fall, not cold enough for a heavy coat, but just cool enough for the red Toughskin jacket to be brought out. The soundtrack is ALWAYS Paul Simon or James Taylor (I may have added this bit later in life). My father is in the house working on a new painting, my mother is tending to her plants and my sisters are there, not too close, but within dirt clod or crab apple range if the wind is just right. I'm off playing alone, probably in a corner of the backyard building a fort out of twigs or looking for insects to inhabit that fort. Something is ALWAYS about to happen - nothing bad, no twister is looming in the distance or anything, but someone is probably about to stop by - an aunt or uncle, who always bring fun along with them. And that's it. That is my childhood memory. There are certain variations, but when I think of being a kid then this is what comes to mind.

I wonder if my kids will have a memory like this. I wonder, too, what they will take away with them from childhood. When they smell cigar smoke as an adult will they think of me, will they always remember their parents as avid readers, will their idea of the perfect house be based on their childhood homes? Will certain movies and music bring their childhood crashing back on them as they do for me?

There are times, too, when I find myself wanting to manipulate that memory. Times when we're at Peabody Park and I look around and The Trio is playing happily so we are allowed a few moments of peace to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine ourselves, that I think, "This is perfect. This is what having a family is all about." And I wonder if I should pull one of the kids aside and say, "You don't understand me now, but this is the day you want to remember. Look at the color of the leaves, look at that Blue Jay over there, watch your brother slide down that slide. This is the day and this is the feeling you will want to take with you." But then I'm afraid that if I disrupt their playing and invite them into my little circle of solitude that that little circle of solitude may be destroyed forever. And right now, on this perfect day, I just want to remember the peace and the quiet because their childhood memories are mine, too. They are something for me to look back on and, hopefully, whisper to myself through the haze of old age, "Yes. I got it right." (that's what I'll be talking about when my kids just shake their head at dad talking to himself again.) If they step into my Circle of Solitude - I'm capitalizing it now because I'm thinking of invoking it permanently in my house, of putting it on the map - then that memory may fade forever with the impossible demands delivered for a sandwich or juice box, neither of which we brought to the park.