Two Memories

June 30th, 2014 § 0 comments

For something I dismissed, I remember it vividly. I came to dwell on it months, even years later when I realized with shocking dismay how pivotal my memory of that moment had been. It’s not too often in life that you know beyond doubt that nothing will ever be the same, that you yourself will never be as you were. We realize it later, when the future has unfolded and we can pinpoint in hindsight the moment when “everything” changed. Even so, memories are fickle and so malleable to our own desires that I’m not completely convinced of this one.

I remember that I wanted that moment to be like the scene from Almost Famous, when Zooey Deschanel’s character leaves home. The film came out in theaters when I was sixteen, two years before I moved to Chicago for college, and it made an impression. The soundtrack, the coming of age story, even if it was about a boy, resonated, and the film perfectly captured what it feels like to wait for your life to happen. I was a teenager always on the edge of my seat, hoping to force the future into existence through my own desire for it. I wish I could tell myself then to be patient, and that life, brutal and unexpected, would come.

I was just as careless as the daughter in the film. I remember, not who drove me to the airport, but who didn’t. My mom and my brother, my dad already living elsewhere, stood in front of my childhood home as I got into the car. Outside on the lawn, casual as though nothing were really changing, though the house was sold, my mom was going back to school and my brother was moving out, I remember them standing in the front yard with our dog. It was a last look, a casual glance back as I drove away toward my adult life that I remember now so vividly. When I came back for Christmas, months later, all of it was gone. My family was there but my childhood wasn’t. It’s a haunting feeling and I should have realized through the enthusiasm of youth all that I was leaving behind.

It was this memory that came to mind yesterday as I said goodbye to my mom and brother, those same two figures standing with the same casual gravity, this time in the entryway of my brother’s New York City apartment. Moving back west after five years in New York City, with his wife and newborn baby, I knew this time as I drove towards my Brooklyn home what it means. I knew before I went to say goodbye, as I was leaving and all the way home, that it is the end of an era. The end of a time before Sofi, our time in New York and those years in my 20s when I rediscovered my brother. Like childhood and parents it’s easy to take siblings for granted. They are those pesky people with whom you are forced to share anything and everything, from toys to memories to parents. In our quest to have our own life it’s easy to forget that you don’t ever want a life without them.

Driving down the FDR, looking out over the river at the night sky, high-rise apartments and anonymous lights, I was overwhelmed by the desire to turn around and go back. Is it better, I wonder, to know all that you are saying goodbye to? To be aware of how much you are losing? Youth protects you, but age forces reality. It is more painful to know the importance of a moment, but it’s better than carelessly throwing it aside: seems to me it’s on those unthinking gestures that our deepest regrets are built. It’s with a knowing sadness that I say goodbye to having family within striking distance for the first time since I drove away from my suburban home twelve years ago.

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