Sunday, December 17, 2006

Visiting The Past--Carefully

These days Tom is kinda-sorta certain he wants that Virginia job and so I have kinda-sorta been digging through boxes of all that paper they tell you not to keep (but you keep anyway) and tossing stuff which had survived previous cuts, but which will not make the in-case-we-move-to-Virginia cut.

Good gracious. The junk we keep! So far, the silliest folder I've found is the one I labeled "Baby Information." And, uhm, well, uh, every how-to-care-for-your-soon-to-arrive-baby article inside that folder was 27 years old! Rampant sentimentality at its worst--and into the recycling bag they went.

There are the calendars I've stashed away from 20 years ago, ones I kept as 'diaries' since back then I wasn't organized/awake/together enough to keep a real diary. Only three, or so, I'll save to remind me of the places we went and people we saw during Naomi's high school years, but the others? They joined the baby information.

Receipts from car repairs of cars we no longer own, insurance information from items long ago sold, my old typewritten lesson plans from eleven years ago when I taught adult Sunday School and women's seminars at church. You'd find it all in paper grocery bags if you were here.

And after all that sorting, I have that took-a-trip-back-in-time feeling. You know, the hazy one which clings to your head because suddenly you've bombarded your brain, like an awakened bee hive, with memories of people and gatherings and happenings you'd not recalled in years.

Some of you may take trips back to the Past often, but I don't. No, I seldom travel back that way, seldom even by way of video home movies. But when I do travel back, I stay only ten minutes, or so, for those trips feel too much like riding a bicycle where I turn my head to stare and talk to someone behind me, and then lose my balance or crash into a telephone pole.

I lose my balance when I visit the Past and glimpse only the good times, but ignore the bad ones. You'd think that's a positive thing, but it isn't if it creates a yearning to return to something which was never as perfect as I'm recalling it. Or there are the memories which mostly I recall as dark and humiliating and those are the kind that can jump into Today and haunt me for hours. Or there's just the thing of mixing this present season with seasons long dissolved--for me, they tend to jar one another. Like those time travel movies where, if the actor goes back and changes even one small moment, then all of history is changed forevermore--and not for the better as he had supposed.

No, if I take the road back to my past, I peek just a few moments and only as long as appreciation accompanies me, and generally, only long enough to learn something valuable. Besides, my past is now a lonely place, for all my loved ones live other places--they have moved on from there--and so should I. And, for me, I know I've wandered too far into the Past if a strange sense of longing tries clinging to my head or if regrets start taunting like children on a playground or if what I forgave years ago starts raising its mishapened head out of my own sea of forgetfulness.

Then I know it's time to ride speedily, face-forward, back home to Today where I am, thankfully, happier and more contented than I've ever glimpsed my old self during those quick trips to the Past.


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