Do you ever remember glimmers of your childhood? They are seemingly pointless memories; maybe even a split second where someone said something to you or an afternoon spent with someone that told you who they really are.
One such glimmer that I remember with great clarity, even though I was probably about 10 years old, is an afternoon where my grandpa was taking care of me. I loved my grandpa (and still do), but it’s interesting to think back to the memories you have with certain people where you felt so close to them, yet at the same time knew nothing about them.
For instance, I can’t name all of grandpa’s brothers and sisters; I know had over 10. I’ve only met two anyway, but it bothers me to think he led this entire life before us meeting each other and I don’t know enough about it.
On that summer day, it was just my grandpa and me, a rare treat since usually all my aunts and cousins were always around when my grandpa was there as well. Being 10, I don’t remember the specifics around why it was him and me, but I remember feeling special and happy that I was able to have all of his attention on me.
To 10-year-old me, my grandpa was the nicest man on the face of the planet (and to 30-year-old me, he still is). He was always in a good mood, remembered everything I told him about my friends and school, and was always so happy I was there.
When you’re a kid, all you really want in life is for the adults you love to pay attention to you, so having my grandpa by my side for an entire afternoon seemed like a real treat. My mother is from a small town in western Kansas, about 2,000 people, and I remember that my grandpa and I had to go to a neighboring town for whatever reason.
He promised me that we could go to a store and I could pick out a present. I was never a greedy child, but like any kid, the promise of a present when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas held special value. He gave me a handful of names of a few stores we could visit. I usually chose the hardware store where I would get random knick-knacks like a metal bucket to carry around my dinosaurs or rope to create reins for my plastic horses. Everything always had a purpose– I rarely asked for something unless I needed it or unless it fulfilled an obligation in a collection I was working on.
As we grow older and seem to distance ourselves from our childhood, I can still feel like the inner voice I had back then is still the one I had today. As if I could go back in time and change bodies, I’d still make the same choices, have the same anxiety or worry. This is both comforting and frustrating to me.
On this balmy Kansas day, I chose the pet store. I had just gotten an anole as a pet and was interested to see what this new-to-me pet store had to offer in the way of lizard accessories or dog treats.
When we were almost to the pet store, my grandpa got a call on his car phone. I don’t know who it was, but I could tell it was something to do with his farm. The way he quickly dismissed the stranger on the other end made me feel like a priority as if time stood still and nothing else mattered but taking his granddaughter to the pet store on that exact day, in that exact moment.
Have you had many moments like that in your life? When the person you’re with didn’t care about anything else except spending time with you? In the age of smartphones, these moments are getting harder and harder to come by. It’s so easy to avoid an emotional connection with someone you care about by checking email or Facebook like you’re waiting for a life-changing message to come through, but in reality, you’re just avoiding the present.
Even though I’ve been married for almost seven years and have a great family, remembering other times where someone was in a hurry to get their attention back to me is harder and harder to do. It doesn’t necessarily speak poorly of who I spend my time with; it’s hard for me to do as a companion, friend, or family member as well.
Maybe this is why that afternoon with my grandpa sticks out so vividly in my mind. We walked across the dusty parking lot and into the store. He patiently followed me around as I browsed the few aisles, not sure I’d be able to make up my mind on what present I could get.
I finally made it over to the tiny reptile section, and immediately spotted what I knew I wanted: a tiny string lizard harness and leash.
Now to the average person, a tiny lizard harness is likely something to laugh at and even feel concerned about: what if the lizard escapes? How can you get it to fit properly?
But to me, that harness was full of opportunities. Cammie was pretty tame: he would sunbathe on my hand and let me stroke his head with my finger. But if I could let him out of his cage, think of how the world would open up for him! He could explore my beige carpet and get his exercise! Maybe he could even make an appearance alongside my plastic horses and dinosaurs.
I didn’t think twice about asking my grandpa to purchase that lizard hardness.
And what’s better, he didn’t think twice about purchasing it for me.
And that simply says so much about my family: my grandpa didn’t raise any concerns about loose lizards running around my house or how random an item it was to ask for. He simply trusted me to know that my lizard needed a leash and harness, and that’s all there was to it.
What’s more, when I excitedly told my mom about it, she didn’t ask any logical questions. Sure, her brow furrowed as she read about the qualities of the lizard harness (“Adjustable! Fits lizards and geckos of all sizes!”) but she didn’t say, “Are you sure Cammie won’t escape?”
Again, she trusted me to know Cammie’s capabilities.
This tiny afternoon, a sliver of my life compared to all I’ve lived and all I will live, shows me so much. It shows me that my family accepted my harebrained ideas and didn’t try to push me in a traditional direction; it shows that as a child my judgement was trusted; and it made me feel so special to know that my grandpa loves me so much, he’d even buy me a lizard harness if I asked. I can’t say that about many people in my life, can you?