Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Past.

Sometimes living here in The Hamlet is really hard.

Having spent most of my childhood here, my early adulthood, and now that I'm back here as a full-fledged grown-up, it's difficult to dig a hole in the ground, throw memories which I need to forget into a hole, and shovel the dirt back over, bit by bit.

I think of things I shouldn't.

I think of Timmy, who went to college at the Air Force Academy, and who fell in love with me his senior year. Mom says I "underestimated" him, which is true. He was lovely, I know now.

Now he's long, long gone, living in Virginia and married for the last 25 years.

Tonight I opened my cedar chest and found his "cover"-- his hat-- worn on his graduation day from the Academy. "He needs this," I thought, "So his kids will have it one day." Inside was a tag indicating his hat size (ridiculously large) and written inside, in his hand, "Tim G.- (serial number, class)".

On that day in June, 27 years ago, Academy Superintendent General Tallman announced, "Gentlemen, you are dismissed." Timmy, along with his 1000+ classmates, threw their parade hats in the air and hugged each other, cheering and yelling, celebrating their completion of four years of intensive study and incredible pressure.

I was sitting at the top of the stadium with Timmy's parents. I broke away from them and ran down onto the football field, intent on grabbing Timmy's cover. Miraculously, I found it. I ran to Timmy, kissed and hugged him as his parents joined us.

There, someone snapped a picture with my camera. In the picture, Timmy's smiling and his proud parents flank us. We are all grinning. His cover perches rakishly on his thick red-blonde hair, his smile wide, white; his parade gloves removed and crumpled in his hand. I clutch his arm, smiling madly, wearing blue and white for the occasion. In the background, people look upwards with their mouths open, gaping at the Thunderbirds as they fly in formation over the stadium.

Tonight, I stared at Timmy's cover in the cedar chest. The smell of old perfume lifts up to my nostrils. I take the cover out, still in its delivery box. Inside, the cover is wrapped in a plastic bag of a clothing store long out of business.

"This is going to Virginia," I decide.

I go to my box of pictures and find the photo of Timmy, me and his parents that day. I find a card and write, "Darling Timmy, I thought it was time you had your cover back. Yours, T-Bone", put the picture in the envelope with the card, place it carefully on top of Timmy's cover.

I'll mail it tomorrow. He should have it in a week.

He would never call and ask, but IF HE DID, how could I possibly explain the last quarter century? How could I explain that despite all the things we wanted together, I never had children, never married? How could he understand how time just flew by, and suddenly, I was here alone, thinking of the past-- seeing an old hat and suddenly an old movie unwound my head? How could I explain to him-- who probably doesn't even remember that day-- how strongly this memory glows in my mind? How could I explain, and how can I explain to myself, how amazing to me it is that he's lived ten lifetimes since then and I'm still here-- two miles from the house I grew up in, the house he knew then-- so, so long ago?


Gina said...

T, it might be surprising just how many "marrieds" long to reconnect with those of the former days. The more things change the more they remain the same. Truly.

the Redhead said...

Hi Bone,

T. was such a sweetie! But of course Gina is right, everyone would like to step back into the past once in a while to feel the rush of times gone by. How can you say that he's lived ten lifetimes and you are still only two miles from the house you grew up in as though that defines an interesting life?! I've never even left the STATE to live somewhere else-- you have, and have wonderful friendships and experiences (and one hideous stalking) to add to your life scrapbook from those times. Don't feel like you have to throw memories in a hole and shovel dirt over them! Maybe in your mind they just get put on a quiet shelf or wrapped in a beautifully carved box or put in a cedar chest and aired from time to time without impeding your daily life. I relive happy parts of my first marriage sometimes even though they bump up against painful ones, because they were good times and part of the timeline, my scrapbook. That's all it was with the lid! This was a great post. Don't think that you've wasted your life though-- you've lived as richly as anyone else does.