Viewpoint by Janice Lindsay


Visit the past. Its safer.

For this column, I delve into the past. I need a vacation from the present, which I find a bit scary, given current events and politics and all. The past seems a safe place to visit, at least for a while.

The most restful part about visiting the past is that we know how things turned out. We don’t have to wonder, or worry about, what happens next.

For example, I know that I was born. This was not a certainty at the time.

Some decades ago this month, a young couple awaited the birth of their first baby. Also waiting were people who could call themselves grandparents, aunts, or uncles only if I arrived safely, as I would be the first of the next generation.

I almost didn’t arrive. My mother suffered in labor for three days. Apparently, I could not decide if I wanted to leave my warm, safe environment for the uncertainties of the cold, noisy world outside. I almost chose not to, and I almost took her with me. I don’t remember why I finally decided to venture forth.

I cannot imagine the worry of those who waited for me to decide. They could not foresee that they would eventually welcome a healthy baby girl who would be their hearts’ delight, until my little sister came along, then those aunts and uncles would welcome hearts’ delight babies of their own.

Another restful reason to visit the past is this: Unlike the present, where all our personal flaws and foibles are constant companions, when we visit the past, we can leave out the inconvenient bits.

For instance, when we were very little, my sister felt inspired to bite me. I can still see her tooth marks on my innocent, chubby arm, two perfect horseshoes of indents. Of course, I did nothing  to inspire her anger. I do not remember doing anything, ever, to treat her unkindly. I do not understand why here favorite consolation when something bad happened to me, after she learned to talk, was “That’s God paying you back.” Paying me back for what?

A third pleasant and entertaining reason to visit the past is that, unlike in the present where everything happens in sequence and we have to wait for what’s next, when we visit the past we can jump around.

Hop from yesterday’s computer misadventure; to the afternoon our old cat got his head stuck in an empty can of baked beans (he survived); to the morning my two-year-old son locked me out of the house; to the day I was driving home from school on the main road and the muffler dropped out of my rattletrap, dragged along the road by a rusty pipe, creating embarrassing sparks and cacophony.

When we visit the past we find that it’s not all as delightful as the time when I was 11 and we lived on a cove and had a hurricane and the drugstore lost its electricity and it couldn’t be turned back on because the wires were wet and their soda fountain ice cream was melting so they had to give it all away for free and they had a huge supply of our favorite, butterscotch crisp.

When we visit the past, we sometimes see things that we wish hadn’t happened. We sometimes see things we can’t understand, even in the light of the present. But we can’t change anything in our past, we can only try to learn from it. For example, you might learn that, if you’re nice to your little sister, maybe she won’t bite you.