Friday, April 12, 2013

Lost in Memory

I've been thinking for two days about a single moment from my childhood. The basics of it are these. My family and another family went to a Syracuse Chiefs game. I was a little kid, less than ten, probably around seven or eight but maybe even younger. I can't remember. The game is a usual Triple-A game with giveaways, cotton candy, soda, and a game that stretched into the night past my bedtime. The game ended and we headed for the exits. I remember trying to follow the big kids from the other family who were going through a turnstile. I tried to go through, but couldn't manage it for a bit. I slipped out another way and looked to catch up, but the big kids were gone. My family was gone too. The crowd was, to my mind, huge.

I didn't know what to do so I walked as we usually walked from the games, away from the stadium and up the street to where Dad usually found free parking near Joe's Smoke Shop. I kept looking for my family. Panic was rising up over my head. I asked people if they knew where Joe's Smoke Shop was, but no one knew or could understand why I needed to know.

Then the public address announcer called my name. He asked me to return to my seat. He repeated my name and the request. I turned and ran back toward the stadium. I ran back inside, found the ramp to our seats, and entered the ballpark. I remember my father waiting there for me. And I think I was crying really hard. I was embarrassed that I had gotten lost, worried that I was in trouble, and so, when someone asked what had happened, I said that I thought I had won a clock-radio in one of the giveaways.

This made people laugh and changed the color of the spotlight. That was all I thought I needed then and what I thought my parents needed too.

I was thinking about this yesterday, having read a passage from Jane Smiley's novella Ordinary Love. I wrote my mother to ask what she remembered. She wrote back:

"Yes, I remember that night very well too but in an entirely different way. I remember you did not want to hold my hand and it was a crush at the gate. I looked around and you weren't by my side where you had been when we started down the stairs. In that instant I saw you wandering and scared and all alone. Nobody around you that loved you like I did or knew that you needed security more than you would ever admit. You were a catcher, a very important position on a team and you were scared of the ball but you wouldn't admit it. You got a certain look in your eyes when you were trying so hard to be brave but no one else could tell that you were oh so scared. We went back to the seat and I remember the first glimpse of you sitting there and how my heart went back in my chest. You told us you expected a radio and we all went along with it but I will never forget that night because it was one of my worst fears for both you and your brother. From the time you could walk I had impressed on both of you that you were never to leave the building or area we were in until you were with me. You both knew that you were to remain in the building until one of us got to you. That's why I was so relieved that you had gone back to the seat. Later I heard that you had tried to find us in the parking lot. It didn't matter either way you were back and another frightening incident had ended in relief but not without another few gray hairs and some nightmares about what could have happened. That's how I remember that night."

I wonder what my father remembers. Or my brother. And now, I wonder too what I remember. Hearing my mother's story has changed mine some. It's not that I had it wrong. It's that the picture is richer now, deeper somehow.

I don't know why any of this is important, but it is and I know that because it feels important to me. It has weight to it that I can't deny. I suppose the only way to know more is to talk more with Mom, ask Dad and my brother, and write on.