Life's Events Unfolding
Yes, we are each the sum of all we have been through. All we have seen. All we have touched, and all we have been touched by. All we have learned, all we know, and all we know we still don’t know.
So what am I?
Well, first I am a tiny baby. Born small and stayed small. Thought of as cute. A cute little thing in the middle of a large spread of siblings. Somewhat forgotten? (or at least glanced past) in that arrayed family photo. Hiding in plain sight.
Pressed into the uniforms of uniform parochial education, skinny tie over white shirt, dark pants, dark shoes, standing up straight, hair slicked down. Looking forward, never talking back, homework always completed, books never forgotten at home. Brown paper bag with sandwich and apple clutched firmly in hand. Yes, sir. No, Ma’am.
Benefiting from the righteousness, rigidities and rhythms of that saintly schooling. High red line across a gridded pale cream report card, letter A upon A rising higher still. Advanced classes and summer programs, math competitions and spelling bees. Medals to save in a musty shoebox in the back lower corner of a shared closet. Helping dad erect a Kennedy for President sign against the front porch rail.
And, suddenly! — the black cortege winding its drumbeat way to Arlington. Our eyes cannot believe the never-lying TV screen. I Want to Hold Your Hand. Twist and Shout. I’m a Loser. Help! A Day in the Life. We played that LP until the grooves went clear through, seeing all the lyrics across the kaleidoscopic sleeve. Wondering what it all meant. My hair grew. And grew. My jeans got tighter, then swelled at the feet. I began thinking. About everything.
Campus a day from home. No car, no cash, no friends, no dates, no hobbies, no life but class and growing hair. Hitchhike home and back once every third month. Painting and philosophy, history and ceramics, extreme math and equally extreme drawing, sketching, scumbling. Strive, excel, get a degree, become a professional. But take time to watch the news. The horrible news from around the globe, helicoptered home each night.
And take time to protest. Shut down the campus. Create the first Earth Day. (And hope that draft lottery number never comes up.)
More than two decades in, life starts all over again, born into the eyes of another. My other. Start a household, get a job, a good job. Begin to build a reputation, one eight hour day after another, in a long and not-yet-ending line.
Move here, move there, quit here, hire there. Acquire piecemeal the winnings of the late-century American consumer: coffee maker, folding director’s chair, three-piece suit, a decent stereo, matched candlesticks, a second import, Cuisinart, socket set, good china.
Aim higher. Second degree for you, second degree for me. Let’s build the house we’ve always dreamed. Acquire still more winnings. Fill all the empty rooms, empty shelves, empty closets.
And, then, like a charm, the very best, most charming charm conceivable, life begins again, for the third time. Because the third one has arrived. And yet we are one.
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