DATELINE: November 27, 2020, from Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon coast
I saw an old family film clip recently, from the summer of 1962. I was on the front porch of the brick ranch my Dad built, waving goodbye to all of these amazing cars from the ’50s and early ’60s, travelling up our gravel road in unincorporated Multnomah County, the no man’s land of SE Portland at the time. There was no sound in 8mm film then, at least not on my Dad’s basic camera. Looking closely at that 3-year-old in the film, who was a former self of mine (or is it just a younger current self?), I wondered what she was thinking, what was she saying from the porch? Who was encompassed in her world? Did she think about the future? Was the future just weeks ahead rather than the future we create as adults which can be years ahead, millennia even?
It made me concentrate very hard to see if I could take myself back to that day. It was a celebration of Gramma’s birthday and all of the aunties and uncles and cousins were there, in the mod patio that Dad had built with these see-through blocks that were all the rage at the time. Only a few vagaries are still there, which I recall having had memories of in my youth, although even fuzzy back then. Posing for family photos with our backs against the hot bricks on the back of the house. Auntie P knocking my cousin upside the head when she was sticking her tongue out and dancing in place, as though Cecil B. DeMille was filming the event and it was important to show one’s best self. Yeah. Paper plates and hot dogs, the snap of beer cans being opened, and Uncle Frances’ deep laugh from his jolly belly; the coolness of the patio and the grass between our toes. “Watch out for bees,” someone said.
Then yesterday, as The Husband talked about the origins of the universe (yes, this is a normal daily conversation with him) and I again thought that here was a brilliant person and how unique he was. So being in that mood of wondering ‘what was I thinking back then’, I took myself back to the early days when I had just met him, and what I thought of him then, and how very young, inexperienced and immature I was was. Innocent. Stupid, really. Fucking naïve! Yikes!
And I thought he was brilliant then, too. Flawed in the ways that we all know our spouses flaws so well…and BTW, they know ours too. And yet he loves me and I love him, for 40-some years now. We piss each other off, sometimes say we’re sorry, sometimes not; we just let time clear the air, or the sharing of a good film, or a walk on the beach, showing each other the treasures of the sea we find in the damp sand. It’s usually the pressures of the day bringing an edge to one another’s conversations that cause tension: his post-cancer treatments making him sick; Dementia Mom leaving us all behind in the dust of her 91 years of osterized memories; this fucking house that just can’t get built on time; the virus, our divided nation, the blindness of racism, the healthcare community toiling and exhausted, and the sadness and frustration that it all brings.
I sometimes wonder how The Husband even tolerated my youth; he was older by age and experience but not a traditionally aged person. Yet he put up with my youth and all that I didn’t know at the time. What did he see? His 20s were the Marines and Viet Name, and having a commune briefly, Peace Corps volunteer in the jungle, studying thinkers on his own, at first Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, and then Wittgenstein and finally Spinoza, “his man,” when he finally went to college at 29.
While it might be handy to be able to fully beam ourselves back to our younger selves, or borrow Dumbledore’s memory wand and his magic font of the liquid past, we have to make due with our likely polluted and subjective memories. But in all of this, it has been so important for me to see how I have changed, how others have changed, grown out and into new ways of thinking, expanding our universe of rights and wrongs, social justice, empathy, and also street smarts, healthy skepticism and just plain experience.
To boil this whole damn post into one really long sentence: let’s realize that it’s ok to change our mind, to forgive ourselves for things we thought before because of youth, ignorance of our upbringing (e.g., parental units), or fill in the blank, with the stupid ways we decide we believe in something or think about someone in a certain way (another great thing to ponder next time you are contemplative either naturally or through enhancements, like martinis or cannabis products).
So on this gorgeous, sunny day with the surf looking like the prototype perfect ocean painting, I’m off now to a contemplative walk on the beach. I’ll turn off Scotty’s transporter and set down Dumbledore’s wand on the way out the door.