And she remembers. In diamond-hard detail.
He doesn’t. Not a foggy bit of it.
No, there are no senators present. No cameras rolling. No rapt audience of millions. Just brother and sister and a family Christmas long years past. It could have been you. It could have been me.
One of us remembers. The other hasn’t a clue.
To all of us. At family gatherings, class reunions, any time, any place we sit and swap tales of the good (or not so good) old days. Some remember some haven’t a clue. And by and large we listen, shake our heads, finally nodding to acknowledge that, though we couldn’t remember, they all but certainly had it right. Just because we don’t remember doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
And life and conversation moves on from there.
But then, likely the only seat any of us were vying for was a seat at the bar ... not on the highest court of the land.
That might just make a difference.
I’ve been thinking about those dangling conversations, those fragments of life etched in crystal memory that likely can be recalled by no one but me — though the faces and names of the people who were also there for those indelible minutes and seconds will be with me into eternity.
Yes, I remember; and yes, they have no doubt forgotten.
And I will say with equal certainty that my face and presence are lodged in the minds and hearts of any number of individuals, an unforgettable participant in moments I have long since forgotten.
Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
And much as I’d like to flatter myself by thinking otherwise, not all of those memories, quite likely most of them, don’t exactly reflect well on the person I’d like to imagine myself to be. If my secret recollections are populated by a number of jerks and a far, far larger number or ordinarily decent folks momentarily acting as jerks, I daresay it’s better than likely I’m fitting that role for others.
It’s humankind’s most basic truism — if you’re breathing, you’re not perfect.
Even if you make the honor roll and varsity squad at Georgetown Prep.
We all screw up. Sometimes badly.
And while that’s not OK, it is understandable. Particularly when we’re young and callow, struggling to figure out how the world works and how we’re ever going to fit into it even while we’re doing our best to strike a brazen pose of superiority and competence to match the facades thrown up by our equally befuddled compatriots.
All but invariably, somewhere along the line, we’re gonna screw up. Do something for some reason we’d regret the length of our lives.
Whether we remember it or not ... because we all forget stuff.
Even an over-privileged kid looking for a seat on the Supreme Court.
But, clearly, something happened.
And all the passionate denials. All the self-pitying accusations. All the bravado, bluster and self-righteous indignation a badly-bruised ego can muster won’t make that reality go away.
But a bit of acknowledgement. Contrition. Ownership of a younger self who didn’t always do the right thing, and who perhaps did some things which were very wrong.
Sort of like the rest of us. Each in our own way.
Each in need of forgiveness. Each in search of redemption.
Whether we remember why or not.
Jerome Christenson is a former reporter, columnist and editor at the Winona Daily News.
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