Friday, February 4, 2011

Another Person's Memory

I had a sudden flashback on the bus this evening. Who knows what sparked it, but I had a vivid memory of being at a lesson learning how to programme BASIC on a Commodore PET. Wikipedia tells me the PET was discontinued from production in 1982, when I was seven, which seems a little suspect to me. Would a seven-year-old (or younger) really be taking lessons in the BASIC computer language?

Whatever. Perhaps it was a different computer and a different year. I do vaguely remember being younger than everyone else, and I vaguely remember that the teacher was the father of a classmate of mine, or something like that... and nothing else. But the flashback also revealed a sense of how I felt in a room full of people older than me behaving towards me with more than a little scorn.

That was unusual for me. Like finding a twenty-five year old scratch-and-sniff card and finding that scratching it still reveals its aroma. I know that it seems like I write a lot about my childhood, but really I don't. I write around my childhood - the music of the era, the politics of the era. I write about the world I lived in, but not the person who lived in that world, because I'm really very detached from that seven-year-old. His memories are stored in my head, but they're another person's. I can remember what he did and what he thought, but not how he felt. That seven-year-old no longer exists. In his place, answering to his name, is me - a 35-year-old who probably has little in common with that kid. His viewpoint on the world, what made him happy, what frightened him - I remember these things as if I had learnt them by reading another person's memoirs. It's strange. It's disorienting. It's creepy.

That was the sort of kid who would learn a computer programming language. The sort of kid who was good at a lot of stuff - even often called 'precocious'. The sort of kid who 'would be something one day'. The sort of kid whose social awkwardness was usually glossed over by the very adults who furthered it by constantly 'singling him out'. The sort of kid whose future was 'very bright'.

Now, as 'has potential' slides into 'had potential', I wonder what the 35-year-old me would say to the seven-year-old me if we could communicate with each other. And vice-versa. Would we recognise each other? Would he be proud of me or disappointed in me? Did I become what he wanted to be?

What advice would I give him? Would he listen to my advice? Would he blame me for not becoming the shining star people thought he'd be? Would I blame him for not having the diligence, motivation and direction to get me there? Would I tell him how much better things could be if he could just break out of his shell and not be so maladjusted and bad at making friends? Would he see right through that and say, "Well, you haven't changed as much as you think you have"?

Would he be right?

Do I miss that seven-year-old? I'm not even sure. There are things about him I like and things I don't. Things I admire and things I can't stand. Would I give him a kiss? Or a slap on the face? Am I sad that he doesn't exist anymore? Or relieved? Am I pleased at the differences between him and me? Or ashamed?

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