I hesitate to write about my childhood sometimes. To write about things that are close to my heart. Because that means opening the locks on doors that have long been shut. And I am afraid I will be overwhelmed by the onslaught of all the memories, feelings and experiences that have gathered over the years. Afraid it will wash me away and leave me gasping for air as I lunge around flailing my arms, trying to catch hold of something familiar.
But how can something be familiar if you haven’t befriended it? When you refused to acknowledge it as it lingered on the boundary of your subconscious? ‘Later’, you’d tell yourself. ‘Later I shall reacquaint myself with these forgotten friends.’ But later never came. And even friends fade away if not taken care of. Time, the cruel monster, picks at it, piece by piece, until you can no longer recognize it, and are afraid to look it in the eye, scared that it will change the way things used to be.
You resist change. You cling to the past. Yet you are afraid to dig deeper. Afraid to disturb the slumber of the beast in your head. Afraid he’ll throw all the memories out at once, in anger. And afraid you won’t be fast enough to catch them all before they hit the ground.
It is strange how we claim history is done and dusted; is in the past. And yet how deeply it is responsible for shaping us into who we are. We are astonished at how powerful a smell can be, how one whiff can throw us back. The smell of dreams. The smell of childhood. The smell of winding staircases. And you stand still, taking in the smell. Allowing yourself that little whiff because it is the wind that passes through the door as you creak it open (but not all the way through) and then slam it shut.
And is that why we are so afraid of the dark? Of the night? Left alone with our thoughts, we can hear the fists thumping on the door, threatening to give in. And are the monsters actually the beings we make up to guard the door? The ones who wrongly take the blame.
And maybe that’s how we learn to embrace our past. Not by tackling the monster and barging in head-on. But by taking the spare key and slipping in quietly, taking everything in as we walk around, one by one, slowly, silently, while making it home.