For a split second, I could see over the neighbor’s fence and then the momentum quickly brought me back down. On the way back up I wondered if I would start to wrap around the top pole supporting my swing like the window shade in our upstairs room when it was pulled down too hard. My best friend’s swing was alternating with my own in a synchronized, pendulum-like fashion. I remember the sun shining off her blonde hair and how it’s rays warmed my face. I scrunched my eyes shut trying to sear this memory in my brain. Eyes closed, my backwards descent kickstarted a sommersault feeling in my chest. I had the same feeling in the backseat of my parents’ car when my dad would occasionally speed over the hills leading to our home. My friend must have felt the same fluttering in her chest because we were both laughing now, having an every day kind of magical moment. The birds were singing and everything seemed right in the world.
There was no complication to our childhood friendship. Mortgages, April 15th and living wills were not on our radar. Nor were we aware of the depth of our own insecurities and neediness. At this age, these manifestations of brokenness were neatly disguising themselves into more palatable, easily dismissed child-prone tendencies. Brokenness had a material connotation alone and not a spiritual one. This would soon change.
My best friend did not know then that her parents would later divorce and their family dysfunction would be public knowledge during her mom’s political campaign. I did not know that my brother would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or that multiple sclerosis even existed. We would both struggle with infertility. She would be told that she would not be able to have children; but she eventually did. I would receive no answers as to why I could not get pregnant. I still never have. Her second child surprised everyone, even the doctors, when she was born with an extra chromosome. That day on the swing I was oblivious to the despair I would experience when our second adoption nearly fell through five weeks after my son’s birth.
Pain, rejection, loss, doubt, and fear were poorly formed, abstract concepts that afternoon- not that we were innocent then and victims now. We understand these concepts more acutely because we have wronged others and because we have both been dealt hands of heartache. There is friction created by lives rubbing together and the passing years have created more opportunities for sparks to fly. Bumping into one another hurts. Our present, jarring realities remind us we are alive in ways that are typically harsh and intrusive. Nostalgia, on the other hand is a more deceptive, masquerading pain that arrogantly boast beauty, especially at first blush. Peeling back the layers reveals an inside void of substance, lacking the friction of the here and now. Trying to put skin on a memory is as elusive and frustrating as continuing an interrupted dream.
Nonetheless, when I am hurting I try to return to this memory of an uncomplicated existence and happiness like a reflexive fetal position.I grasp for that feeling in my mind and try hard to return by the same way I seared it into my brain: scrunching my eyes tightly shut. The sting of paradise lost is not going away despite my child-like efforts.
I can see the tendons and veins on my hands working their way to the surface of my skin as I grip the swing’s chain today. My son is sitting on my lap. His face is close and his feet are facing the opposite direction as mine. We are swinging high and I am bit nervous he will fall. When I open my eyes, I’m surprised by the joy. I’m starting to see things differently even though I’m prety sure I’ve known all along. Strangely, a beauty is beginning to emerge that is even more beautiful because it is tangible, completing the gamut of emotions. The steepness is what made that hill so fun. The ride up in the swing is still more exhilarating because of the momentum that also brought me down. Fulflillment, acceptance, trust, and love are more fully appreciated and understood through the lens of time, experience and pain.