Do you have memories of childhood that still resonate today? I mean sweet ones. I know others surface, of course, but for now, I am wondering about how the good stuff of the past can inform our days today, maybe brighten them, maybe give us a hint how to live into our future. One day a few years ago my cousin Diane brought me a picture of her and me. She was much smaller than me then, as she sat in her high chair. She had a round face and brown curly hair. I was standing next to her, one year older, taller then than she. When she was maybe fifty and I 51, we laughed that when I was 2 and she was 1 might have been the last time I was taller. Now she is 5’6”. I just barely top five feet.
In the black and white photo from 1951, I was standing by her high chair in my plaid skirt with attached suspenders over my starched white shirt—even at 2, I could see that I had my father’s legs, sturdy. They were sticking out from that pleated skirt, short, muscular, a little bowed like his. I wore white bobby sox and red shoes. I bet I knew then that my cousin Diane and I would hang together a long time. I loved her mom too, my mom’s older sister. I remember going to their house on Colonial Rd to laugh with them, to play, eat hot dogs on their deck where I could spill out the oozing ketchup all over the wooden decking. Aunt Lorraine didn’t seem to mind the mess, would say nothing, get a rag and wipe it up. Funny how we remember the small things that can mean so much.
I told Diane all these years later, “Di, look at this photo, I was holding out my hand to you. I was asking you if you wanted to go for a walk with me.”
She did then. Here I am, as Robert Frost would say in his poem, The Road Not Taken, telling this story ages and ages hence. Now our cousin Nancy walks with us too. We walk on paths where we get lost, trails that are well-marked with yellow or red blazes on trees, which could/would be helpful maybe if one wanted to stay on the path. But we are sort of Road Less Taken kind of walkers. As Robert Frost said, it has indeed made all the difference. Two roads diverge in a yellow wood and we laugh, “where are we? Oh well, good thing it’s only 1:30. We have at least two hours before it gets dark. We’ll be ok.”
Left. Right. Left. Right. Way leads onto way. One foot strikes the ground, the other lifts momentarily. Have the three of us been doing this our whole lives? Miles and miles. It started simply enough, the freedom to get out of the house, for exercise, power walking, walking in rain and snow, the wide-open spaced Blvd, the tighter wooded Portland Trails, Stroudwater. Now it’s more complicated with fit bits, counting steps and all. We walk one day and then, “Do you want walk tomorrow? I don’t know where yet.” That’s part of the freedom. Part of the messiness. That’s part of the stride-by-stride memory of growing up together.
Even though we’ve all had memories of childhood which haunt us, maybe touch into trauma, there are some worth remembering, that can walk with us, that really can make a difference.