This March has been hard for everyone in the entire world. I don’t think there’s a singular time in my life (outside 9/11) that one event has been so universally impactful. However, this March in particular I’ve found myself struggling more than usual outside of the global scene , and my walk down memory lane yesterday combined with self-quarantine has given me some insight as to why.
I lost a friend about a year and a half ago. A dear friend from childhood. The circumstances surrounding his loss was / are private, but they have deeply impacted me. For the longest time, I struggled with why. Yes, he was an amazing individual. Yes, he was brilliant and kind and generous and loving. Yes, he was a doctor. Yes, his sister is 8 days apart from me by birth and my closest friend for 10 years. All of these things are true. When I lost him, I hadn’t seen him in probably 3-4 years. When I did see him, it was brief, and my real reason for visiting was his sister. I have felt guilty for the severity of my grief for so long- why do I have any right to feel the way I do? Why do I feel the way I do, period?
I think I’ve finally figured it out- or at the very least, made my peace with the guilt. I grieve because this person’s life was so closely knit with mine for the first 10-15 years of my life on this planet. I grieve because every time I think about the street I grew up on and the wonderful, miraculous times we had, I am now mourning, too. Not just the loss of my childhood- but the loss of a life. If you’ve ever seen “inside out” I feel like most of my childhood memories are trapped in the scene where sadness starts to touch the joyful core memories- and they become a yin/yang of happy/sad. I’ve avoided walks down memory lane for the last year and a half because I’m too scared to remember the good; it’s now tinged with loss. I grieve (selfishly) because of the impact this loss has had on me personally- and I’ve come to the realization that that is OKAY. I have started to let those memories back in; spurred on by the recent anniversary of his birthday. Today, I’d like to share one of my favorites.
Go with me, now, to my childhood street. There are about 14 houses, 7 down each side of the street, all facing in towards an alley. The alley was the “kids” hangout. We could ride bikes, trikes, toy cars and scooters down the alley without fear of car traffic. In the middle of the right side of the street, there are 3 houses next to each other. First, the D’s house. Second, the M’s house. Third, my house. The D’s , M’s, and my family all had kids about the same age. There were 4 D’s, 4 M’s, and 3 in my family. Together, we played every single hot day from 9 am (acceptable outside time as deemed by our mothers who were all friends), to about 4:30 pm (to break for dinner). These were my people.
This memory takes place on a special day. The kind of day where your parents let you go outside again after dinner to play in the sparkly, golden-hour glow of a summer night- where the smell of charcoal still hung in the air, and sweat beaded on upper lips immediately. This night, our parents decided to let the oldest of us take us on a walk PAST THE END OF THE ALLEY. Four of us crowded into the little red wagon (with safety boards on the side, of course), and the matriarch of our group (plus the two older boys) dragged us down to the end of the alley, and turned a corner.
Now, this was so rare that I can’t even tell you what the street beyond our alley looked like. We hardly ventured past our asphalt paradise. But, we went there that day, and I’m sure it was the most magical experience. When we returned, smelling like summer, and smashed together in the little red wagon, the boys scattered off and one of our moms snapped the pic below. It is my favorite picture of childhood. Most of us crammed in , crowned in honey-light, snuggling in the sweet start of summer- smiling. The kind of happy only kids can be. Even though he is not pictured (along with one of the D’s), this is how I like to remember him, remember us, remember me. Happy.