Is it because I’m getting older? Has six months of social distancing worn me down? Or have I truly become more introspective? I suppose the “why” doesn’t really matter, but I think about the past a lot more than I used to, especially my early childhood.
I’ve always had vivid “living memories”. I remember people, places and events from the past. I talk about them (and write about them) often. But deep rumination is new to me. I find myself trying to chronologically piece together the circumstances, chance encounters, and twists of fate that made up my world during the first 18 years of my life. I then go one step further and try to recall how these situations affected and shaped my actions in the years to come.
Sometimes a memory and the corresponding future action are easy to figure out.
I am the eldest daughter in a family of eight children. I helped my mom with chores and childcare because she obviously needed an extra pair of hands. I felt I could manage, none of the other kids were remotely old enough, and so I stepped up. Crossing our (very quiet) street with a baby brother in my arms and a toddler-brother hanging on to my waistband is a very early memory. We three made it safely across but a panicked neighbourhood lady came running up to me. Oh my goodness! What are you doing? What’s wrong?
Now, it’s not hard to understand why she got upset. I was only 3 years old. But at the time, I felt utterly confused, I couldn’t see that I’d been careless. I carried the baby around all the time. I made no distinction between the safe confines of our house and the unknown perils that waited for us outdoors. My mother heard the other mom calling something alarming like … Marg, Marg, come quick … and she did so.
After some nodding and mumbling between the two of them, Mom returned us to our side of the street. She didn’t fuss at me but I remember her saying I shouldn’t do that again because I would worry people. I suppose I didn’t completely appreciate the import of her advice because 3 years later, I received a similar admonition for letting those same two brothers walk to school with me. That time though, it was Sister Constance, the principal of the parochial school I attended who phoned my mother to come and collect the 2 smaller boys. I can still see her, hurrying along, while pushing the buggy with two more (smaller) children.
Thinking about those two incidents, I realise that from an early age, I considered myself capable. Acting impulsively didn’t worry me, but of course, I didn’t fully consider the consequences of my actions. The fact that I never “got burned” as a child encouraged me to move on to bigger challenges. At 18, I insisted on accepting an Assistant English Teacher’s position in southern Peru. Then at 24, I moved to southeastern Mexico.
My wings got clipped once I had a family, but yes, I am still like I was at 3 … ready for adventure … I hope that we get a vaccine soon. My need to be active and on the go is still strong. I don’t want all these “golden years” to pass me by, and yet, I think I am making the best of the situation. Thinking about days gone by is not my only activity… I am working on a new book, I’ve done some painting, and oh yes, picture sorting. The ones included with this post are of Stephen as a baby in his bassinette and of my brother, Peter and Me with Dad, in front our house and Mom’s vegetable garden. Ah yes, that was the year we crossed the street.
I don’t really remember why I took my little brothers and did that. To get to the other side? I guess that was it.
And here’s some accompanying music… “Those were the Days”, by Mary Hopkin, 1968