Monday, August 20, 2007

Pedestrian Epiphanies

I keep coming back to this story in my life. I start to tell it here on the blog, but then give up every time. I want to describe this moment that seemed to change everything, but really changed nothing at all. It was just a moment...

When I was maybe eleven or twelve, my older brother played Senior League baseball. He loved sports and was very competitive. I was not a sports kid at all, and did not really like competition. In fact when my siblings got together to play a card game or a board game, I would always opt out, and they would sing to me: Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you, party pooper. Yup, that was their anthem for me. Ms Party Pooper. Maybe I've already told you all of this before, I can't remember. But this is about a story about a different memory, so I'll get back to it.

My older brother played baseball on long summer days in New Jersey. The whole family would go out to the field to watch him. He was a good ballplayer. We did a lot of things together as a family. We went bowling, or to Asbury Park, or out to dinner at Snuffy's. It was that era in the suburbs when we knew all of our neighbors, and we felt safe to be on the streets day or night. We played lots of different games, some that we made up, like treasure hunts or Baby Face Nelson and the gun moll (that would be me, of course). We put on plays, and played many games of pretend. I liked those the best.

Yet, as all siblings do, we each revolved in our own orbits. I wrote secret poems, and love songs to The Beatles. My twin brother had a paper route and wanted to be a drummer. My sweet little sister followed me around, hoping to catch up to be my age. My older brother played sports and went out on dates with girls. We lived under the same roof, four suburban kids in 1964.

I think it must be the August light that reminds me of this moment, but one August day in that long ago summer, I remember walking into our suburban home and seeing my older brother sitting in the white, curved family-room chair. He was wearing his baseball uniform and was talking animatedly about the game he'd just played. I stared at him for a long time, trying to understand what it was that made him my brother. How is it that this person and I are related as siblings? Who are we? Who would we have been if my mother had not married our father, or our father had married someone else? I found it exhilarating to consider the unique way we were connected. I stared at him, suddenly aware of our cells and how alike they must be. It made me feel closer to him than I ever had in my life. And strangely, at that moment, I felt a kinship with all humans. If my brother and I were this closely related, I wondered who else was I distantly related to; and wasn't I, if I could just trace back in time, related to everyone? How could it be otherwise, my 12-year old mind wanted to know.

That was the moment.

I wanted to break open all the rocks in the yard and look for fossils. I wanted to see the world through a microscope and telescope at same time. I suddenly wanted to understand everything all at once.

When I came back from that long stare, I saw that I was just looking at my older brother in his baseball uniform telling a story. I was just a girl who was giddy about the poetry of life.

Still am.

Do you have a moment that turned on the light switch to the world?

Photograph: Older brother behind the stroller, my twin brother and I being the Buddha twins, and cousin Donna hanging out with the family. Newark, New Jersey backyard of our apartment, circa 1954.

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