I imagine my children, growing over the years, leaving their childhoods behind and becoming—day by day—people in their own right.
© Aron Hsiao / 2016
And I imagine them living in a world in which their parents have always been apart, so far as they understand things, on a day to day basis. It is taken for granted. Normal. The nature of things.
And yet, I also imagine them having strange, fleeting memories now and then as they walk to the mailbox, perhaps, or as they put their cars into reverse to back out of the driveway, or as they slide into late sleep before another day of high school or college.
Haunted, fleeting, half-conscious half-images, faint recollections, unplaceable impressions of an ancient time, now lost to history, a dream world in which they lived together with both of their parents, in the warm womb of a family—of all of us in the same room, making pancakes, mowing lawns, tidying bookshelves, playing games—mornings and evenings in another life, a life they’re not sure they actually lived, that they can’t quite bring into focus, no matter how they try, no matter how they reach out to grasp.
A world that they can not be sure was ever real.
The line, I believe, goes: “Once upon a time, in your wildest dreams.”
I don’t know how successful we were at shielding them from the endless tension, frenetic raging, and silent seething that characterized the five years of our marriage after we became parents. God knows I tried my best, for my part.
But I cling to the hope that someday, in those moments when the ghost of the past whispers in their ears, what they will feel is a bittersweet longing for something beautiful—something magical yet forever lost—that they can’t quite recall. Not, I pray, a small-minded, jaded satisfaction at the end of the fraught home life that underlay their young childhoods.