What do we see when looking out a window? A painting, perhaps? Our eyes focus light, bending what’s reflected onto a canvas of retinas, etching into biology as nerves feed pixels to the mind, turning shapes and colors into forms, meaning. So yes, a painting, of life, with panes that set us apart from a watercolor world. We cannot touch. We cannot feel. We only see, unattached, as it waltzes by, clicking and clacking along rails, one direction, forward or backward depending on how we sit. It’s there for us, just outside. Waiting. Framed. All you must do is open it.
Funny thing, history. Like a photograph, we set it in motion, then it’s done. Unchanging. It’s a timeline, with specific dates and references plodding along as we live our lives. Infinite points of reference.
Overnight on Oct. 29, it snowed. I worked late, and awoke early, to track the snowplows for the office. We turned the gas heat on, and made chili. On Oct. 31, 2012, we celebrated Halloween by trick-or-treating with the neighbors and visiting a friend’s party in the neighboring subdivision. We visited my parents on Saturday, Nov. 3, while your mom visited hers before they went back to Florida. You hiked the hills, played in the turnip patch, and found an antique bottle that my dad had unearthed with the dozer. On Election Day, Nov. 6, we watched as the debates ended and the nation united – despite fierce political differences that had mounted for months – to re-elect President Barack Obama.
Four significant events in an eight-year-old’s timeline. Which, then, will you recall with clarity? Could be the snow. You love snow. You play with it, slide on it, pelt me with snowballs. We’ve done it every year and I can still see the delight in your face looking out the window after each snowfall. It could be Halloween. Costumes, candy and friends. Enough said. Finding the bottle? Maybe. You clasped it like a prize for a few days, and as I write this it’s still in the windowsill.
The election is my best guess, though. Ever since your first presidential election, when mom taught you to say “Obama for your momma,” you’ve been inquisitive about who’s in charge of things, asking “who’s the boss of” our town, the school, the state and the like. Tuesday night, you kept coming back to the computer, to see which was higher, the blue votes or red votes. So, yeah, maybe that’s the bit of history that will stick in your head. Or, more than likely, it will be all of them. Your lucky. Your generation is the first with the ability to log each and every reference point, this blog a perfect example.
So, cherish your history, your timeline, little mouse. Keep it in the photo album of your mind. Look at it, scrutinize it, learn from it, but most importantly, smile at it. History is you.
Just found a paper on the computer desk that says, “I love you Mommy … from Catie and Daddy.” You misspelled daddy, and I think added the ‘y’ in mommy as a second thought. You’re probably embarrassed, but I love to see your handwriting. The scribbled letters always make me smile, mostly because they constantly change. Sometimes I go looking for your old drawings, cards, letters, even homework, just to look at the difference. It’s like taking a trip on a time machine.
Yesterday, we celebrated Gotcha Day – the sixth year after the judge told us we could really be your mommy and daddy. And we got you. There’s this picture of all of us at the courthouse afterward, another time machine. In it, I see your tiny two-year-old arms, fingers, clutching at mommy, trying to smile at something you didn’t really understand. This morning, when I reached for your hand while sitting on the couch, watching television, I secretly traveled back to that day, comparing their length and strength and touch. Later when we had our Gotcha Day cake, and you smashed your face into it, roaring back with laughter, I laughed, too. And took a picture. I thought, I can’t wait to see this in ten years, and remember again.
My darling daughter, always experience today, but never forget your yesterdays. Let them be your time machine.