Today, I delve into the past, because I currently find the present just a bit scary, given current events and politics.
In some ways, the past provides a safer place to sojourn, at least for a little while.
The most restful part of visiting the past is that we know how things turned out.
We don’t have to wonder what the future will bring.
For example, I know that I was born. This was not a certainty at the time.
A few decades ago this month, a young couple awaited the birth of their first baby, the first in that baby’s generation. They were joined by others who would become grandparents, aunts, and uncles if I arrived safely.
I almost didn’t. My poor mother was in labor for three days. Apparently I could not decide if I wanted to leave my warm safe environment for that bright, noisy world outside. I almost chose not to and I almost took her with me. I don’t remember why I finally decided to venture forth.
I can imagine the worry of the people waiting for me to make up my mind. They didn’t know that they would welcome into the world a healthy baby girl who would be their hearts’ delight for a while, until my little sister came along and those aunts and uncles had babies of their own, whom they could not then foresee.
Another nice thing about the past is this. Unlike the present — where all our worries and foibles are right here, constantly staring at us — when we visit the past we can forget the inconvenient parts.
For instance, when we were very little, my sister bit me. I can still see her tooth marks on my arm, perfect horseshoes of indents. Of course, I did nothing to inspire her anger. She might remember differently.
Did I occasionally treat her unkindly during our childhood? Her favorite consolation when something bad happened to me, was “That’s God paying you back.” Paying me back for what?
A third pleasant thing about visiting the past is this. Unlike in the present, where everything happens in sequence and we have to wait for what’s next, when we visit the past we can jump around.
I can hop from yesterday’s computer misadventure, to the day our parents took us little kids to the rodeo, to the day my two-year-old son locked me out of the house, to the day I was driving home from school and the muffler fell out of my rattletrap.
Unfortunately, when we visit the past, we find that it’s not all as delightful as the time when I was 11 and the drug store lost electricity and their soda fountain ice cream was melting and they had to give it away and we gorged, for free, on our favorite butterscotch crisp.
Sometimes when we visit the past, we see things that we wish hadn’t happened. But we can’t change them. We can only learn from them. For example, if you’re nice to your little sister maybe she won’t bite you.
I do not pretend to have the past figured out, or to understand everything it tells me. Even people who share big chunks of the past, like my sister and me, do not remember it the same way. Sometimes the past can seem almost as confusing as the present. I wouldn’t want to live there. But it’s a nice place to visit, from time to time.
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