Inheritance

Over 35 years ago we were in the same Kindergarten class. I saw her yesterday and knew that I had met her before but I couldn’t figure out how I knew her. She put it together first. As soon as she said “I think we were in the same Kindergarten class,” the window to my memory opened up. We weren’t in the same class after Kindergarten, and by the time she was in 3rd grade, she had moved to a different school. Our paths never crossed again until yesterday. It’s intriguing to me that nearly four decades later, we could see the childhood face of someone we knew from kindergarten.

I went home that night and pulled out my 1984 class photo. It only took me a second to locate her. I don’t know if we played together during recess or if we shared the same table, but for some reason, I unmistakably remember her.

But there’s this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I can’t ignore and I wonder if it’s a shadow of a false memory or if there is something real lurking behind it. Shadows can distort the truth after all, but was this shadow revealing something that once was or was it playing tricks on my mind?

I think there was a time that I was mean to her. In my self-absorbed way of trying to secure a place for me on the social ladder of 5 years old, did I use her as my stepping stool? I was typically a reserved quiet kid, but sometimes the reserved type has a way with stealthily running into someone and knocking them over and getting away with it because no one would ever expect it from them. Was that why she instantly knew who I was because I was that kid that made her cry one day? It’s oddly terrifying to think about the impact your actions might have had on someone, actions that you are completely oblivious, yet actions that have been imprinted onto their memory against their will. The casualness of your actions which so easily slip from your memory never to resurface again, reappear over and over with such clarity to those that they hurt.

It this idea that has been most prominent on my mind as I read Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Inheritance. The possibility of an action that we are responsible for and have long forgotten, that have had an impact on the life of another and has not been forgotten.

A med student, years ago agreed to be a sperm donor. Did he consider the impact that would have on someone? Was he or is anyone truly capable of understanding what that might do to the life of another human being? Could he foresee that someone someday would be traumatically impacted by the awareness that his actions, that took place decades ago, actions that he had probably forgotten about, would turn someone’s life upside down?

My nine-year-old one day told me one day that she was glad we didn’t live near the ocean so we didn’t have to worry about hurricanes and that we didn’t live in Kansas so we didn’t have to worry about tornadoes. Her older sister took this opportunity to educate her and tell her that we lived on a fault line and near the mountains, so we get to worry about earthquakes and forest fires. I then had the challenge to help her see that we didn’t need to live in fear each day worrying about if and when a natural disaster was going to strike.

I don’t think we need to live in fear that someone somewhere has been hurt by something we said or did that we don’t even remember. I don’t think we need to sit up at night wondering if there was ever something we did at some point in our life that might have hurt someone else. However, I do think it is important to know about earthquakes if you live on a fault line, and hurricanes if you live on the coast and tornadoes if you live in Kansas so that when those moments unravel, you are ready to deal with it. And in those uncomfortable moments when you come face to face with the impact your actions had on another person, it is always best to deal with it.

October 29, 2019

Time writing: 1 hour

Total time writing on this blog: 143 hours and 30 minutes