As my daughter’s growing up, life is becoming more and more interesting. It is said that a small child equals small problems, whereas an older child…
But that’s not all. An older child demands more logical answers to increasingly difficult questions.
Our most interesting conversations usually take place early in the mornings, when she opens her eyes, and in the evenings, when we hug each other before we go to sleep. The other night, just after I turned off the lights and tucked her in her bed (she has moved out of my bed), an unexpected question came from the darkness:
Mom, have you ever got married?
It took me by surprise, and the time wasn’t exactly opportune. I’ve never been married to her dad. Maybe her playmates from the daycare center had talked about the marriage or she was just comparing herself to other kids. Who knows?
But, she sounded worried, so I replied: “No, I only wanted to have this child. That was mattered most to me.” A sigh of relief. “Mom, I’ll do the same when I grow up!”
I don’t think this has closed the subject though. Me, her father, marriage and family will be discussed many times before she becomes an adult.
And not just that.
I wondered if we should tell our kids about our past, ex-boyfriends, former husbands?
Tidying up the closets is among the most regular and preferred female activities. After a month of serious mental preparations, I recently decided to give it a go. I applied the only efficient method I knew of: I just took out the entire content of the drawers and closets, piled it up on the floor and started rummaging through it. At some point, I came across a long forgotten shoe box which stored some old photos and letters. I opened Pandora’s box filled with long suppressed memories.
My past is by no means a thriller, but the pages of my book of life turned slowly. One day, long ago, the present collapsed and turned into the past.
After a period of reconnecting with myself, new currents drew me away to the open sea. The past remained captured in the shoe box, offering as evidence some two-decade old photos and twenty letters or so.
I sat on the bedroom floor and took a long look into my past. There were photos to illustrate it, with me in them, and some people who were close to me at the time. The woman in the photos looked like me, but she was still different. She travelled. Her hair was short and blond, then a bit longer, and finally a bit darker. She looked nice, smiling, in a white silken dress, spotted with many colorful butterflies. She was getting married…
The past had been held captive in the photos, in the box, in the closet until I finally plucked up the courage and opened it.
I asked a friend if I should tell my daughter about my life before her some day. Would it be wise to show her, maybe not the letters, but at least the photos of her mum and that man she couldn’t possibly recognize, the man who meant so much to me in my past life?
“Keep it all”, she told me. “You’ll show it to her some day. It’s incredible how a look from the future heals everything because it is the only right way to look at it. The whole life trembles inside of us and it never gets to be told. Only our daughters will be able to make sense of it all and shed some light“.
I will take her advice. The box has kept its place on one of the lowest shelves in the closet, tucked in between the old sweaters I avoid discarding and keep storing “just in case”.
The past was beautiful while it was the present. It’s a part of me, of the way I once was, the way I’ll most likely always be. One day I’ll show it to her and we’ll look at it with her eyes. We will look at the old photos, at the good-looking, smiling bride in the colorful silken dress and at the man in dark suit. Together, we will find new words to recount my past.