One of Cricket’s Slice Of Life prompts this week is the pitter patter of little feet.
Time – our youth – it never really goes, does it?
It is all held in our minds.
– Helen Hooven Santmyer, American Writer.
Lately I have been filled with something like regret, not really regret in its truest sense, but the kind of sentimentality that washes over you when you think of the past. I have been thinking of things I used to do, like picking blackberries in my grandmother’s garden, brushing the coat of my silly old dog, Henry; of the birds that used to come to the first house I ever bought – a house that has belonged to someone else for over fifteen years – and how we had this big wooden table in the garden that they used to jump along as if it were made of really springy rubber. Of the neighbour I had when I lived in Bondi – a rabbi – the loveliest man I have ever met who gave me my first taste of Matzo Ball Soup and invited me to Shabbat even though I am not Jewish.
I have been thinking about all of these things and have realised that there is no possible way I can envision once more those events as they truly were. I can remember them but I will never truly see them again. There is sadness in that, but also happiness that they even happened at all. And I wonder if I appreciated at the time the joy those simple things gave me.
Sometimes I see things that trigger memories of long-forgotten days and I remember how it used to be almost as if someone had placed a photograph in front of me.
I saw a little hand today. A baby’s hand. A chubby, little, soft thing. I see the hands of babies all the time and am usually not so affected by them, but this one reminded me of a baby I used to know. My now twelve year old son.
This little baby’s hand was clutching a Matchbox car. A red one. He would not let it go. That car was as precious to him as anything. The baby was in a cafe and had been eating toast with strawberry jam and it was all over his face. The hand clutching the car was thick with jam, but he would not let that car go so his hands could be cleaned.
His mother battled with him but he was adamant. She caught me looking and raised her eyebrows. He won’t let that car go, she said. I nodded, knowing what it was like. My son was the same. His red Matchbox car went everywhere with him, even down the toilet on one occasion. When he was learning to walk it was not so much the pitter patter of little feet but the pitter patter kerthunk, pitter patter kerthunk of feet walking and car dropping. Over and over again.
I remember those days where tiredness cast pearl-grey veils over my eyes and I was so intent on getting through the day that I failed to really take in the things I would later wish I could recall. I saw that baby’s hand and felt something twist in my chest as I realised my son was running full tilt out of childhood.
And I wished for a moment that I could see my own son’s little baby hand clutching his car just one more time. Just once. But then I realised it is moments in our present that draw us back to the past, that everything lingers in our minds, good and bad, happy and sad. We have each seen more than a million treasures and they have shaped our hearts, our perceptions. They seem like they would be as fragile as handmade paper but they are strong, standing firm against time, gilding the dark.