Friday, November 15, 2013
I forgot all about Hot Dog Day at St. Brendan’s School and the litany of fellow classmates that remain fixed in my mind as friends even though I have not seen most of them since I left them all those years ago.
These are icons of memory forming some strange foundation in me upon which I have built my life.
And even if I wanted to shed them – which I don’t, I can’t.
I still ache for the annual church bazaar that gobbled up our playground each sprint, filling it with colored lights and cotton candy, over which we drooled each day on the way to school as sweaty, muscular men struggled to put together the pieces, our fingers enmeshed with the gaps in the cyclone fence.
Each of us gripped that fence tight as if holding onto what we could not yet get our hands on, thinking that if we let go for even an instant, the whole thing would vanish like a dream.
I’m still gripping, clinging to that image in my head, recalling how we were let loose from school early once during that week long festival to indulge in what was then our wildest fantasies.
I still taste the cotton candy although I have not eaten it since. I still wander from game to game, taking chances on things that are beyond me, knowing now and then how little chance I actually had in winning any of the prizes. I did not know then, but do know now, that the prize is the memory, not the stuffed animal or water gun I might have walked away in.
I remember, too, how scared I was on each of the rides, thinking that might life might come to an end at any moment – part of the thrill thinking impossible thoughts, yet confident in the steady hands of the operators, and the ability of the muscle men to have assembled all the pieces of the puzzle well enough to keep me safe.
Back then, we were sheltered, and were only vaguely aware of it.
Now, life is shorter and thus the years infinitely more valuable, and we ache to take those chances we took back then, wishing that we had the same steady hands on the controls and the same sweaty men building a safety net we no longer have.
These days, the risks are real, but so is the ultimate prize, and when we wander through this carnival of life, we need believe we can achieve or else we will always fail, falling off this ride into a limbo we can’t possibly imagine.
We need have faith in our own steady hand and our own sweaty efforts, because often there is no one else.