If only, I had. . . Life is filled with regrets. This came into focus on Wednesday when I accidentally lost my wife’s Trader Joe’s Philly commemorative shopping bag while biking to Sundby Bad. I should have put it in my backpack rather than in my coat pocket. It was a birthday gift from friends of hers.
If it had been me, a person attached to the history inherent in things – I get attached to them, I would have been royally peeved. My wife’s loyalties lay elsewhere so she was naturally annoyed with me but not heartbroken. I was the one who was heartbroken at my own stupidity and the loss of a piece of the place we used to live. I had forgotten that it was a birthday gift for her, which upon being reminded of that doubled my sense of loss for her and my own stupidity.
You, dear reader, might suggest that this is such a minor regret in a world filled with poor decisions that impact people’s daily lives why bother mentioning it at all. After all major decisions have important consequences in our lives that should be subject to hindsight.
Hindsight provides the benefit of knowing the consequences of your decisions and accessing the quality of your decision making. However, unless you have the benefit of knowing the future while making the original decision, I would come to the same conclusion and make the same decision I originally made. We all act on the information or emotional circumstances that are available to us at the moment we face the decision. Our regrets come when we see clearly that we did not see clearly the results of our actions.
In the case at hand, I would have made sure the bag was more secure. I wouldn’t have been so careless. Sigh. It joins a long list of should have, woulda, coulda moments in my life that go back to childhood.
Fay was the prettiest girl in the 4th grade. I was 9 years old and shyer then than I am now. I was smitten with her but too awkward to express my interest even if my interest in those days was nothing more than a desire to talk to her. I can’t recall what convinced me that she was attractive. My memory is vague on this. It was in a time before smart phones with cameras, so I have no visual evidence. What I do recall is that she carried herself with a strong sense of self-assurance, had a 10,000 watt smile that drew the attention of the other girls, and radiated openness. My recall of her outward appearance is hazy after all these years. Fay could stand next to me in the grocery store and I would never recognize her. She has become metaphorical.
I told a friend about my interest and in the way of 4th graders trading secrets I learned that Fay was interested in me. Learning that was a magnificent moment that gave me permission to talk to her, which I did repeatedly. Then came summer. Social media did not exist. There was no way to keep in touch with anyone outside your parents immediate circle unless they lived on your block. We were restricted and freer in ways that no child is today.
That fall, now a 5th grader, we grew closer. We talked on a regular basis. I walked her home a few times. What might have been I will never know. Around November, my parents announced we were moving. Our small two bedroom row house had become too small after the arrival of my youngest brother back in May.
We moved over the holidays and I started at a new school in January. My old friends almost completely vanished from my life. I did manage to keep in touch for a year or two with a few on my old block. That was possible because my parents kept in touch with some of our old neighbors. Fay disappeared from my life. I wondered from time to time about her but couldn’t figure out how to connect. She had been a school friend. Someone who was in your classes and therefore readily accessible. I’m certain I knew her last name but that memory evaporated long ago. It’s was more than half a century ago.
I lied. There are some things I remember about her. Fay had red hair, porcelain skin, and blue eyes. She was Catholic. I wasn’t. After I walked her home, I had to cross through a rough Catholic neighborhood. The first time I crossed through that neighborhood I heard racist taunts and curses directed at me for the first time ever. It was a shock in 1963. The second time a gang of kids chased me and I ended up getting into a fist fight that left me and one of my assailants bloodied and bruised. More shocking things happened later that year that stunned us all.
Our attractions follow patterns. The qualities that drew me to Fay have played out in my subsequent relationships. While I can’t recall any more than a blurry sense of Fay’s energy, I suspect my wife generates similar energies. She shares much of what I remember of the other. We travel in circles seeking what escapes our grasp over and over again. Bound to an unseen law.
No lie this time. I’m offering a reward to anyone who finds a yellow Trader Joe’s bag with the words, “Djeet Yet” on it floating around Amager. Just post a comment if you happen to locate it. I have few regrets but it would be wonderful to eliminate this one.