Until yesterday, if you wanted to freak me the hell out, you would ask me any question about “going back” in time. Those closest to me know that I don’t do that shit. No, there is no point in time I want to re-live, I don’t want any “do overs”, I don’t yearn to change a single thing, and for God’s sake don’t ask me what my favorite memory is from childhood.
My brain freezes when this question is put into play.
Yesterday, my sister-in-law asked for our favorite memory growing up, and while everyone started their stories, I went into a psychological state of emergency. I don’t ever go there for what I’ve always considered very sound reasons. I stepped back and tried to render myself invisible with the power of my mind. While one brother started talking, I escaped to the bathroom to save myself, calm down, and scan my mind for what the hell I was going to say.
When you’re the black sheep of the family, this is not a good thing.
I was, obviously, a little shit growing up. I ate and drank everything I was told not to and had my stomach pumped so many times they should’ve engraved my name on the machine at the hospital. I put my arm through the front door having a fit for being told to go inside and take a nap when I was five.
If mom said I couldn’t have money for candy at the pool, I’d lift quarters out of her purse when she wasn’t around. When she told me to stay off the piano, how do you think I woke everyone up one morning? If she tried to keep me out of the Brach’s chocolate stars by putting them on top of the fridge, I’d just grab a chair, climb up, and take just enough not to be noticed.
I was hit by a car at 10 years old because why should I look both ways? If I was punished by KP duty for misbehavior, I would refuse to wash dishes, and take them all and hide them under the bed until we ran out and my dad would wake me up and make me pull them all out and wash them so we could eat.
At one point in time, I was grounded for so long I considered it a life sentence, so what did I have to lose by sneaking out the window? That was a success until half-way in the window one morning I saw my dad sitting on the side of my bed waiting for me. Momentarily frozen half in, and half out, he just said very quietly, “It scares me when you do that”.
I never did it again.
I ran away from home at 16 and ended up in court and was judged “incorrigible”, someone whose behavior cannot be corrected. I did not beg to differ. So there I was yesterday, deer in the headlight look on my face, and the only thing I can think of to say is that my fondest memory is that I got a year’s probation in lieu of girl’s school to the age of 21.
I shudder to think who I would have become with that kind of training.
Two years ago, when I called my parents to ask if I could stay with them until I found a place to live, they said yes without hesitation. They came home from vacation and didn’t ask a single question. They let me cry, and sleep and recover. They gave me time to find my way through the sorrow.
That is love. I will never forget it. That is my fondest childhood memory.
I still refuse to look back. No do-overs needed. I’m right where I need to be, come what may. I still don’t like being told what to do, so don’t waste your time. But I am at least self-aware enough to pause before I act. Smart enough to ask myself if I’m getting ready to leap into action because I want to, or because someone said “don’t you dare”.
The odds are growing, ever more, in my favor.
We may all breathe a collective sigh of relief.