The strangers we live with.
June 1, 2014 § 5 Comments
One ordinary afternoon that should, by now be long forgotten, I was sitting with my parents, when suddenly I was looking at strangers.
Two people in their early forties, the man was quite bald, the woman wore an ambiguous smile.
It lasted just a few moments, but for that brief time I disconnected from our all-my-life history, our shared memories, the absolute familiarity of their faces, the influence of our affection for each other and saw them as they were right then.
Wondering, who are these people? scared the daylights out of me.
They elude us, at least in the present, because this moment trails so many others behind it.
The woman you’ve been married to for thirty years, the brother you shared a room with, your best friend since third grade? All are the sum of the multiple selves they have been.
We aggregate those past selves. We average them. The one who is standing next to us taking a breath in this moment is the one who eludes us.
The past preserved in that album is comfortable, safe.
It glows golden.
Remember the time?
We enshrine those closest to us.
And we trap them.
It is hard for us to see that the irresponsible teen is now a forty year old man with a good job, that the parent who cared for us now needs our care.
Filtered through years of familiarity, change in someone we are close to dawns on us gradually. Often we resist knowing.
Change, especially change that sets that person on another path, or diminishes the person who has been a reliable constant can feel like a betrayal. It threatens the steady state we rely on in a world that is anything but steady.
But no matter how close we remain separate beings. We change by choice and are changed by time and circumstance.
It is a scary and generous act, but let go of that long shared history and look again at the stranger you’ve known for as long as you can remember.
Note: The photos on this post come from my husband’s family, the Faasses, but we all have such photos affixed to faded black album pages with sticky corners–and many more just like them in our minds.