We're chugging along, Hubby and I, looking back more often than looking forward. Our conversations tend to go here and there, but mostly to some memory in the past, our shared past of fifty years, and our individual pasts before we met.
Recently, we had a celebration with his relatives, a brother, and a half sister, and scenes of their shared childhood kept popping up in the conversations. Things Hubby remembered did happen to involve one or the other sibling. Each then begins to add or subtract details, sometimes between moaning resentments dropped in to set the record straight.
You do remember that I paid for that car I smashed, Hubby says. No, you couldn't have paid for it, his brother declares. Of course I did; I had two jobs in my junior year and I saved every nickel and dime to buy that car. You, referring to his sister, you never had to pay for anything; Dad just bought you the lessons you wanted, the car you dreamed about.
The three of them talk about some slight the other committed and the conversation goes to another year, another decade.
As scenes were shared and re-created, detail were added to set the record straight on various improper times one or the other listed to make a point, or to correct the recollection. The rest of us, spouses who might never have met if not for the people doing the reminiscing, we just drank our iced teas or wines, and smiled.
Now, now, wasn't it nice you had each other through tick and thin, one of us might attempt to add a cold ice cube of levity to the muddle.
I don't have family or friends from childhood around me. The last time I spoke face to face with my brothers was fifteen years ago. We've moved a few times, changed careers, got divorced, married, remarried, retired, and otherwise remained connected only because the new phones are so much better at Christmas greetings than those old air mail letters that took weeks to get anywhere.
The last time I saw any blood relative of mine, excluding my children, was three years ago at a cousin's wedding. But even these were not people I knew before coming to America. And besides, cousins are not the same as the folks who might remember every detail of your childhood, even the color of that shirt you wore when you angrily killed that rooster that was bothering you as you played hide and seek in the backyard of some relative and could not succeed in shoeing that rooster away.
My husband's family moved about often; but the two brothers managed to keep up with each other even after they left home. As they recount this or that, I marvel at how much they remember, their first day of school, first fight or bloody nose, first stirrings of homesickness. They can name places and people and dates with no hesitancy. As they speak, they help each other reconstruct, make sense of blurred occurrences, stabilize the importance of the feelings they remember with each scene.
I envy them the treasure trove of shared memories.
I envy their comfort.
And I long even more for the losses I feel, of family and companions, uprooting losses that have stayed with me. Losses that had names; and those that just floated by now and then, as I watched a movie, heard a phrase, tasted a food that brought back those lost years.
As waves of refugees cross continents, embrace new languages and customs, I'm reminded of my journey, easy compared to the one they are taking. I can see their future, and their struggles, and their looking back wanting what they left behind. They will never be able to reconcile these losses. They will concentrate on their daily prayers of gratitude that their lives were spared, and their children's lives have been blessed with new beginnings.
May they grow strong and brave; may they have the courage to write about their losses as they embrace their new challenges.