Memory is a strange and mysterious thing. The neurological pathways that lead to ancient data sectors seem to benefit from their long-established well-worn histories, unencumbered by the mis-markings and potholes that usually characterize the recently paved roads that lead to newly constructed storage centers. If prompted, The Man From Central Valley could easily recall his family’s phone number (275-1673) from the 1970’s. Yet tonight, 40’s years hence and a world away, in a city he’d called home for the last 37 years, he couldn’t remember the name of a lovely woman he’d met at a holiday party only a few hours earlier. Nor could he recall exactly what he had gone looking for when he’d sprung from his bed shortly before midnight in search of a keepsake or document or some such artifact from his youth. It seemed important enough to sacrifice sleep for, but now that he’d been distracted by an unexpected find, the subject of his initial pursuit eluded him completely.
The small dime store diary he held in his hand inspired an involuntary gasp when he’d first spied it buried amid the high school-era flotsam and jetsam stored in an old oak chest: athletic letters, plaques, report cards (3.67 GPA), get well cards (a baseball injury that required surgery) – all evidence of a young life lived just inside the margins of a socially acceptable high school narrative. This modest journal, sporting a 1975 date, had held many secrets. Though, judging by the torn strap on the latch, these secrets had already been compromised at some point in the 40 years that followed their documentation. How long had it been since he’d read its contents? Again, no recollection. He cracked it open in eager anticipation, and spent the next two plus hours reviewing his fifteenth year of existence.
He finally retired to his bed as the downtown bars purged their drunken coeds, but given the street-level revelry and the jumble of memories whisked back into the present, any notion of sleep was folly. His mind was abuzz with ideas. His creative impulse – prodded into action in recent years and manifesting itself in visual mediums – was to share his find. Broadly. Wouldn’t it be interesting to post these (mostly) innocent 40 year-old entries on social media? he wondered. If nothing else, they might be worth a few laughs. Further nocturnal consideration deepened his focus. With the 40-year anniversary of the diary looming within weeks, it felt like a fortuitous opportunity to examine the past while comparing and contrasting with the present. He admonished himself: “What an outsized, narcissistic ego I must possess! Who in the world might possibly find this life worthy of public examination? Where is the value beyond my own ego gratification?”
The only answer that made any sense…the only answer that he felt validated the worth of such an enterprise, was this: to embrace truth. Truth would beget understanding. Understanding would beget healing. And that is not nothing.
Ultimately, he decided he would allow his creative impulse permission to wade tentatively into the deep waters of his family’s past, aware of the possibility that, with each successive step, lurked the ever-increasing likelihood of sliding into the potentially deeper and murkier waters of the present.
He would proceed. Without a life jacket. One step at a time. Gentle at first, conscious of his footing. But moving forward. Always forward.