I’ve been cleaning the attic at the other house. This means I’ve been stumbling on caches of stuff my kids just put up there to avoid really cleaning. I.e. when I said “clean your room” they’d run upstairs and stuff papers in the spare room. There, all clean. (Sigh.)
It’s a bit like an archeological dig. You find things you never expected, things you expected but didn’t know where there precisely, and then things that make you shake your head and say “you were there all the time.”
What I mean is, you go through life changing, right? I mean I know both my political orientation and my reading interests, not to mention my writing interests have changed drastically since even my early thirties (when I was a Libertarian with a capital L and no compromises. Before that I was more European.)
Even then there were certain facets of continuity. For instance even in my younger, waffling days, I always hated communism for the abomination it was. Having read Gulag Archipelago and been forced to study Marx in all courses in school for three years, I really had no illusions about the emotional/psychological mechanics of communism.
I just sometimes didn’t recognize early stage communism, or the dangers of other authoritarian regimes, particularly anti-communist ones.
But I can look back and think “Wow, I was someone else.” And then…
But we were talking about my kids.
I’ve mentioned here before that younger son found his “vocation” and his interest in school when he was thirteen and we went to a presentation at the natural history museum, and he got REALLY interested in space science.
I never thought he paid any attention before.
But I found an exercise from when he was 8 and he says his favorite things in life are fried chicken (hey, I make good fried chicken), comic books, and the space wing of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
I never noticed his interest before, possibly because we also had to drag him away from the dinosaur wing (he takes after me.)
But it was a moment of recognition, a moment of “oh, there you were all along.”
The same thing with stumbling on a drawing from Kindergarten from Robert with a cat (wearing glasses) named Tom. This was years before he even thought of writing Cat’s Paw.
And weirdly there is the fact I often can’t tell whose exercise book/composition book/fragment of story/picture I’m looking at. And neither can they. Now if you’d asked me, I’d have said that my kids are different as night and day, but apparently the continuity is there.
(Or to quote older son “Well, mom, it’s a kindergartner with an incredible vocabulary who, nonetheless, confuses m and w. We can’t say anything but that he’s yours for sure.”)
What I mean, other than bragging about the boys (semi-bragging. Man, before ten did they creative-spell. And sometimes creative-word) is that there is a continuity to you even when you don’t see it.
It reminded me of talking to my best childhood friend, 4? 5? Years ago (too long. She divorced, my life got crazy. I lost touch. And now I don’t even know how to get in touch with her.)
This was at a time I was fighting agents trying to push me in a literary direction (over a fun direction, I mean.)
And she said “Oh, yeah, I can see how you’d hate that, of course.”
Now, people who knew me later and met the more airs-adopting me thought I wanted to be literary, or even to join academia. But Isabel who knew me in elementary (she was my desk mate) saw the continuity. (The short tale is that literary is easy for me to do, and at some point you’ll do anything to break in. Easy to read and fun is much harder. I’m still working on it, okay?)
So, you know the thing about never forgetting which voice is yours? We all have to put on masks to survive (these days, often political masks. I came to realizing it wasn’t worth it, but to each his situation and judgment) but never forget who you really are.
Because in the end, one way or another, who you really are, what you really love and what you really believe, at the heart of it, have a way of surfacing.
And you’ll never get far running from yourself.