I invited my younger self to dinner and this is how the evening went:
The food is getting cold. Jesus you are late, really late. Not the customary thirty minutes stuck in traffic late, but maybe you had the wrong day late, but then you show up – beautiful, your dress just a little too tight, a little too short, no bra, your nipples like headlights and your smile warm, already forgiving yourself for being so late I have no choice but to also forgive you, because after all, that is our nature. We don’t really hold on to disappointment do we, except we hold each other when you walk in the door.
Holding and holding and holding each other.
You have no idea how much I have loved you to get to this place of walking into my Kauai home, because you never liked islands – you were born with a piece of Fishtown in your soul. You have concrete in your limbs and yet, you came, flew in from God knows where, -a party in a Penthouse suite in New York. Maybe you left the bed of a lover.
You bring wine, and not cheap wine, because you always made money and had taste, though when I take your smooth young hands into my veined knowing hands, I can see the way money slips through the gaps in your fingers, because money always equaled experience and there were so many places to go. So much to experience.
I want to tell you hard times are ahead for us and to brace yourself, to take better care of your body, but instead I let you uncork the wine and talk too much. Eventually you ask about me – how are you? – not feigning interest, but genuinely wondering what it’s going to be like to be my age as you lean forward for my answer.
Your eyes are clear, un-hooded. When you admit we look old, I say it’s your fault – you don’t start taking care of us for another eight years. You haven’t discovered Mexico yet or the sixteen trips south of the border and too many margaritas….lobster, butter and filet mignon and sitting on George Harrison’s lap in between sets.
I would never sit on his lap, you say, tossing your asymmetrical hair. We don’t do that.
We do, I say.
You aren’t into salads yet and pick at the artichoke bottoms, me forgetting we didn’t discover artichokes until thirty-four.
Slow down, I say, when I serve Penne pasta, your favorite, with more vegetables than pasta and you push the vegetables gently to the side.
Have any Johnny Walker Black?
When you see my disapproving look you say, we gave that up too?
You ask me what is ahead – what is next – but I remind you of the rules. Then you see the photographs on the refrigerator and your finger traces over the future, our daughter holding a baby on her hip, you don’t have to ask. Your lower lip quivers and I get you a tissue.
Are these, are they….ours?
I just smile. You know I can’t tell you and then I tell you with my eyes.
Then what can you tell me?
You’ll never love the same way again, but you will love.
Time, I say, it’s not linear.
I want to say use better birth control because abortions take a toll, but as I’m thinking all this, your fingers are holding a box without a lid with a secret compartment. It’s familiar to you – it’s our mother’s box.
You say she’s impossible.
I nod, of course she is, that doesn’t change – but how we talk with her changes.
You ask if you can play music and we do and it’s too loud. Madonna and Talking Heads and R.E.M. You describe Italy again as you run your hand over the old Chinese furniture, because I have forgotten the details.. How on New Year’s Even the locals in Terracina threw their old furniture out the window and we had to walk in the middle of the street to survive.
You remind me of Renzo’s eyes and paper-thin pizza crust and Trevi Fountain and all those chandeliers made out of the bones of a princess in the Cemetery of the Capuchin Friars. I tell you I’m writing a book about this and thank you for the details and you leap out of your chair.
I love to write! You punch the table and look at me. Then you say, Really, we finally write? All I can do is marvel at your surprise. You are the same age as our daughter, but so much younger.
We talk about the Spanish steps and I say I can’t believe MacDonalds is there.
No, you say, there’s not a MacDonald’s at the Spanish steps.
We reminisce – the broken jaw, the brothers, the cousins. Of course everyone is still alive in your world and you haven’t met your best friend yet. Soon you will be a hot shot in publishing. It’s been a few years since Chaunce died and I can see you wearing that gray color of grief on your skin.
I don’t tell you that you will look young again by thirty.
You come out of the bathroom crying, holding his photograph. You have this after all these years?
Yes, we never forget him.
I cut into a fresh loaf of bread, knowing it will be years before you cut down on carbs. You spread too much butter on it.
Then you light a cigarette and say you hate exercise when you see my yoga mat, rolling your eyes. Especially yoga, you say. Your lower lip is fuller than I remembered and pouting now.
We tell that family joke about our father until we are on our knees. You pour me another glass of wine and I accept it, but first I go to get the migraine medicine.
Before midnight, we stand facing each other. We are by the river now, then the pond where we learned to ice skate, then our favorite Weeping Willow tree. We are in a creek bed and water is rising. We are holding each other’s arms at the elbow. I want to hold you forever – to look in your clear, hopeful eyes, to never let you go, and when I release my grip on you to wipe a tear, you disappear like a feather in a breeze and where you stood there is nothing, just my own shadow.
An invitation to write: Prologue or Epilogue
Invite your younger self to dinner, at any age. What would you serve them? Show your compassion for each other. What do you hold back and what do you share? This is a wonderful time bending exercise that could be used for a prologue or epilogue in a memoir, or a just a great exploration for self forgiveness and acceptance.
For a deeper memoir exploration through the Hero’s Journey, take Laura’s 12-week workshop in a workbook with STORYquest, the Writer, the Hero, the Journey.