The following is from a series of musings on trauma, memory, community, and place. The introduction to the series and beginning essay [link] explains the purpose of this month of entries.
A child / fallen from a swing / is revealed the outside world.
I’m not sure why I wrote those words.
They represent some bad poetic musings of my younger years.
I found them in an old notebook from the second semester of my second year of university.
I remember nothing from those days.
I mean to say they are erased from my memory.
The writing remains though.
An illegible testament to a Darker Time.
I’m half-embarrassed to include them here.
I’m distressed by the evidence of that which I don’t directly recall.
In any case, I think I was implying that we act mindlessly and selfishly up until the moment we need assistance.
And realize that that “assistance” isn’t necessarily there.
At which point mindlessness and selfishness unfortunately carry forward.
Such that “needing help”, “seeking help”, “reliance on help”, and “help forthcoming” are completely separate considerations.
With disturbingly disparate consequences.
When consolation does not come, trauma is maintained.
Individualized; pathologized; unmitigated.
I come back to this decades later to claim that this is quite abnormal.
I think it is fair to say that all trauma is, by nature, collective.
Many might be prepared to agree with this statement.
And the expectation of universal communal succor is inherent to us as a species.
Unfortunately, for many in the world today, the inverse of this prevails.
This makes for much in the way of misery.
And thus my cryptic musings.
Reminders of lonelier times.
And now, a feeble attempt at analysis via memories.
I remember a few years ago visiting my niece’s high school.
Across the street, on the way to the parking garage, was a playground.
Seesaws, swingsets, merry-go-rounds, if I recall correctly.
Various levels of nannies, caregivers, and mothers sat on a nearby bench.
Children running here and there.
And then, a little girl fell down in front of me.
It was all I could do to avoid tripping over her.
Instead, I picked her up, bent down, and asked her if she were okay.
I turned and saw a bench full of women glaring at me.
I smiled, thinking I might get at least a “thank you”.
“Keep walking”, said my brother.
“What?” I asked.
“Just keep walking!” he said.
We arrived at the car.
I said: “What was that about?”
My brother laughed.
He replied: “Stranger Danger”.
I stared at him incredulous.
I recall Halloween in my building in New York a decade or so ago.
We would put a sign-up sheet in the elevator for those who wished to receive trick-or-treaters.
Since we all knew each other, this allowed for a bit of extravagance.
For example, home-baked cookies for the kids, all of whom I knew by name.
Savvy kids in neighboring buildings caught on.
This wasn’t a problem necessarily.
I actually liked the idea.
Expanding the community outward, as it were.
Until one child looked at my homemade treats and exclaimed: “My mother will make me throw this away because it’s not wrapped.”
I said: “Tell your mother there’s nothing wrong with my cookies.”
I put a cookie in my mouth.
She smiled and did the same.
I recall the urban legends of razors in apples of my youth.
I never heard them from my own parents.
I heard them from friends in the neighborhood, echoing what they were told at home.
I think these legends were more-or-less disturbing seeds which now bear fruit.
A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Image: Hallowe’en: East and West featuring a few of my nieces. | Date: October 2008 | Place: New England/California | Camera: Kodak Retina 35mm/1950s | Caption: Pumpkin picking in New England, left, took place on a real pumpkin farm. In California, the pumpkins were trucked in and “placed” for chldren to choose from.