Somebody recently asked me who I would be without kids. It’s an interesting question, because I tend to think of myself primarily as a parent. The nursing, painting, writing, photography, performing weddings and all the other things I do are in support of my family. I will never be without kids, even though my kids are now adults. I was changed forever when I became a parent.
At the same time, I was painting long before I had kids.
I don’t want to reinvent myself, but here is another example of this retrogenesis that I’ve been noticing since early summer. It’s the opposite of reinventing when you discover something from your past resurfacing.
I don’t want to reinvent myself, I want to embrace who I already am at my core.
As my kids get older (and I get older, too), I find myself returning to things from much earlier in my life.
If I return to drawing the way I did in Jr. High, I do it with the addition of everything I have learned and experienced in the decades between then and now.
If I return to my childhood bedroom, I see it through the layers of time that has passed since I lived there.
It’s the same place, but it is not the same. It is like visiting the ruins of Cair Paravel, and finding the knight from your old chess set.
I’ve dreamed of that place. I’ve strained to remember as many details as I could. Going back fifty years later, I found that I remembered it well, though the house and I have aged.
I went by Brabb Cemetery where Elisha and Mary were laid to rest almost 150 years ago. I imagine them returning to the farm and walking through the same rooms, as I did. What stories might they tell… how the house and the world have changed since their time.
When I was young, I didn’t think of history. Maybe that is because I didn’t have much history of my own. I was interested in the Brady Bunch, Wizzzers and playing with my friends. I never guessed that one day I would cherish those days. I would not have thought it would take me 50 years to loosen my grip… that I would cling so tightly for so long. I don’t need to. It is in the fiber of my being.
Maybe it is time to loosen my grip on a lot of things.
I think of people I have known. Friends I have lost touch with, or maybe connected with briefly via social media. We never had a falling out, but at some point one of us took an exit ramp and followed the highway in a different direction. Now we are strangers who remember a brief time together.
It can be fun to reminisce, but I don’t need to be reminded of how goofy… how crazy I was. I was compensating. I was insecure and hyperactive. I was unfocused. That’s why I acted that way. I was imaginative and sensitive. I’m sorry I was obnoxious.
The same person asked me what I’m going to do different now.
I still want to help people, but I can’t save the world. I still want to entertain, but I’m not happy-go-lucky. That’s how my mom described me in a questionnaire before I went off to summer camp in fourth or fifth grade. I’m not the loudest kid on the church bus anymore.