We are ourselves only when we forget. It might only last a minute, but I’ll forget I’m not supposed to slouch and rest my boobs on the table. I’ll forget not to toss my head back with my mouth open and laugh. I’ll forget not to point my finger at the person across the table. Then realization will come, like remembering two steps after I walk out of the house I’ve forgotten my keys. I’ll say, “wow this isn’t like you.” It’s so sad to recollect, I’m not being myself. I have to sit up straight again. I see the same self-catch in my brother. He’ll let go for a moment, and be the little kid I remember who used to eat mashed potatoes with his fingers and not be self-conscious about his bulk. He’ll tell me a story he hasn’t recognized as embarrassing or inappropriate. And I love him for it. I have to be careful, then, to keep him in that crooked-shoulder state, and not become my mother. She would make you remember instantly. “It’s so nice to see you smiling again.” That’s what she’d say.
It means, I can’t control when I get to be myself. I can’t consciously turn the filters off. What happens when I don’t turn the filters back on? I think that would be the true test of strength in myself. If I ever became confident enough to not hold back my tongue, oh God the filth would fly. It’d be fun to watch, from a spectators standpoint. I would be a god to myself.
If I have children who meet my parents, they’ll never know them as I knew them. Those people are gone. They’ll not recognize the soft, cuddly, chubby Mom I grew up with, who wore few bras and had short curled hair. They won’t know my father with these strange eye magnifying glasses. He hasn’t said it yet, but I’m waiting. I wait for the phrase, “I’d like to be able to play with my grandchildren.” They won’t know them without the pains in their knees and backs. They won’t know them without those added years of I-could-have-done piling on guilt from time. They’ll only know the wrinkles, never to see how beautiful my Mom could be. And then they’ll die while my kids are in college, and my kids will care. But not really, they never really knew them before their minds went. Never had the chance. The kids were too young. They had me too late. It’s too late to know them.
That might not be bad after all. Maybe I can dull all they the messups they did to me through a filter for the next ones down. If they never meet the originals, they can’t spread the fire of self-hate they gave to their children. If I can’t see them, I won’t be them. I have a chance to be better for me and mine.