Remember the good old days when we worried about suspicious packages and lettuce recalls?
I have a reflective nature. Sometimes I’m even more reflective than usual. I think that as I get older, I have more to look back on but curiously, I find myself returning to my earlier years in that they stand out in relief. On a timeline, they draw my attention.
It has occurred to me recently that my life was front-loaded. The specific ages of 19-25 had the most significant events packed into the shortest period of time. I don’t remember thinking that as it happened but here, from a good distance, it looks that way. When I think of the events of my life from those years, I want to lay down and take a nap. As a group, it appears exhausting. Then again, maybe that is from my current perspective. At the time, what the hell did I know? It was just my life.
In part, the importance of those years is tied into a number of “firsts” which lends them a certain gravitas. That’s not the whole of it though; it wasn’t all about the emotional wallop of first-time experiences.
Certain occurrences were brought on by my own hand; others were beyond my control. I simply can’t think of another period in my life so far that had as many of both. It isn’t that nothing much happened after those years – plenty did, has – but for sheer drama and impact, those years are it. (If I can help it, I’ll never again have a set of years like those; once was enough.)
If I go ahead and include the first 19 years of my life in this equation, then the years from birth to 25 had the most intense, dramatic events. It’s no small point that the first 19 years of my life were lived with my family; my many siblings and my parents. It was a dramatic, chaotic, populated, volatile household. While I had some notion of that while I lived in it, it is increasingly with years that I see just how dramatic/chaotic/populated/volatile it was.
In some respects, I’m still working out everything that happened before I was 26. Or– maybe I’m just revisiting them, I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t bad thoughts. I don’t feel stuck or unable to get out from under long-ago happenings. I just think I’m appreciating it from a different angle. I never thought of my life as front-loaded before this past week and I’m rather taken with the term and the idea. I haven’t figured out everything it means yet but it gives me a fresh(er) way of looking at things.
Last month I’d gone into the local big chain grocery store because they had clementines (oranges) on sale for a good price, $2.50 for a multi-pack of either 4 or 5 lbs. I walked over to the display. It was piled high with fruit. At a distance it looked great. I was happy they had lots (as opposed to wandering in and finding a few or none because other shoppers had already grabbed up the substantial savings).
Two store employees, a man and a woman, were off to the side of the display but I wasn’t in their way and they weren’t in mine. Besides, employees in this store almost never speak to me and are far more likely to interact only with each other so I assumed that’s what these two would do as well.
I started looking at the fruit and other than being bright orange, which is the least you can ask of an orange, none of it seemed good. I was surprised when the female employee, unprompted, addressed me helpfully: “He just put those out.” Now I was in a bind. I wanted to respond in kind, i.e., a friendly way, and yet the things I was thinking about their gnarled produce could well result in a response that sounded insulting.
In an even, not quite apologetic tone, I ventured, “Uh, they seem kind of squishy.” The employee answered but not to say the predictable pablum along the lines of: how dare you say anything bad about our produce, they’re the best in the business, none fresher, left the farm 10 minutes ago, this one looks fine, blah blah. Instead she agreed with me! Even offering that some of the oranges were “moldy on the bottom.” Now this lady really had my attention. She hadn’t fed me some bullshit line. Or found fault with me and my orange-assessment skills. Or tried to push nasty fruit on me. “Thank you,” I said gratefully, “for being honest with me!”
The exchange set out in relief to me how uncommon it’s become that people, especially, but not limited to, commercial transactions, tell it straight. I am so used to being snowed. Fed lines. Played. Pushed. Coerced. Which makes me so appreciative when someone is honest. I can’t say that’s a winning commentary on either how things are or how I perceive them to be, but I’ll take what I can get.
It’s a miserable, hot July day, one of those where the weatherman says the temperature and humidity combined make it feel like just-kill-me-now. A thought occurred to me. I would have swooned for this day six months ago. In fact, six months ago, I would have paid money to have this day. To walk around in shorts and a tank top, to feel the air against my skin, to not be constantly tensed up, bracing against the chill. To see green and bright colors. Yes, I would have handed over cash for it. Maybe even $30. Suddenly I’m looking at today differently.