February 01, 2004

freeze frame

when something happens to you as a child, something big and bad, like coming home from kindergarten to find out your father's dead, a piece of you freezes in that moment. A polaroid memory that is never a memory at all, not allowed to become a memory, because it remains present and endless. It is then and now and all the space in between. It is before and after. A left turn in your DNA strand. A fly ball that never sails over the fence, never hits the ground, never goes foul, and never lands in your mitt.

And there she is. Living her six-year-old moments, day to day, skipping and drawing, laughing and fretting, my girl. The age I was then. Because a piece of me froze there, I can see into her heart in a different way, feel it skip a beat when something frightens her or worries her, not as her heart, but a bump-bump--an extra bump for me.

Trust me when I tell you that I'm careful about projection. I am conscious about this state I find myself in and wary not to project my then/now age-six state onto her. Anyone who has gone through it will tell you they have to be careful not to blend those early fears into their children's fears.

And it's an effort to stay conscious of it. That's how I know I'm still living it. And anyone who has gone through it will tell you a piece of them is still there. Not every moment, but then yes, maybe so. Not in full glare every single moment, but somewhere, a gnat buzzing up high one day, a dry branch brushing your skin another day, and a stake through the left ventricle another day.

In that freeze frame moment of me at her age, it is the mind, eyes, soul of a six-year-old that turns on like a closet light, or surprises me like a flash bulb from a camera I never noticed was pointed my way.

It's like that, you see.

When she and I connect in that six-year-old space, really touch minds in the middle of a good book, noticing a quarter moon following us down a side street, finding a 1972 penny heads up, it's like an all-day Barnum and Bailey cirucus compressed into a single second.

And when I encounter her pain in that six-year-old space, I absorb it with her, and it's like losing everything all over again.

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