A few weeks ago, a friend and I who live a state apart, decided to meet each other halfway for a day. It turns out that halfway landed us in my former backyard, where my husband and I grew up in Pennsylvania. While I drive home often to visit family, I rarely have the chance to get out and about on the streets of the surrounding area where I spent most of my formative years.
As I drove, I passed life-mark after life-mark. The Inn where we held our wedding reception, the restaurant where I earned tips to put myself through college, the apartment our friends lived in when they first got married. It felt like a “this is your life” moment.
On the way home, I took the scenic route, which drove me past a little brick home with a blinking sign on the front lawn–“Tattoo Parlor”. I slowed as I passed it, and a single memory floated to the surface. I saw myself at twenty-one, flipping through plastic covered pages of dirty white binders in that very same house, debating which drawing would look best transferred onto some part of my body.
Another memory attached itself to that one, then another, and they strung across my mind like beads on a string. Me signing a waiver, me with a tiny pink flower adorning my left hip, me surrounded by college friends’ faces who haven’t surfaced in my memory for years.
A former co-worker found me on Facebook recently, and her smiling face and familiar name brought a jolt of memories traveling down my spine. I think I have a talent for forgetting who I was and where I came from until something reminds me in a visceral way. Remember when I was that girl? The one assuring the tattoo artist I was sober, the one choosing the smallest tattoo possible just in case I regretted it. I was the girl living off tips, surrounded by friends and co-workers who slipped into and out of my life with such ease, they’re now little more than strangers. I was the girl celebrating my marriage at the Inn with a room full of grieving family members.
So much about my younger years feels unfamiliar, as if I was someone else entirely. But occasionally I catch glimpses of my older self hidden there in the memories. The cautious girl with the itty-bitty tattoo? Still me. The complicated friendships, the rough start to a wonderful, but slightly wild, nineteen year marriage? All me too.
I often wonder if I’m the only one who no longer feels the weight of the beads on the string–how easily the memories of who I used to be slip off from it. I don’t know how to reconcile the me then and the me now. Maybe there will always be two of me who meet halfway on occasion. A stringing of beads before they slip away.
What beads would slip onto the string of your memory if you had a “This is your life” drive through? Do you identify deeply with your younger self, or do you feel like someone else all together?