First a little background. I live in the same town where I have spent most of my life. We moved here when I was 2, and except for a 2-1/2 year period from the fourth grade until the sixth, I have lived here ever since. It was when we moved back in the middle of my sixth grade year that I learned "you can't go home again."
We lived in Jackson, Mississippi during those 2-1/2 years, and while Jackson was alright, I spent the entire time dreaming of moving back here. In the beginning, I hated being the "new" kid with the "Yankee" accent. (Believe me, it only sounded like a Yankee accent to kids from the deep South.) While I got used to living in Mississippi and made plenty of friends, it never felt like home. I wanted to be back with the kids I'd "grown up" with, the kids who really knew me.
What I didn't understand then is that there is a huge difference between kids in the third grade and kids in the sixth. They change physically, for one thing. They're pre-teens. They're bigger, they don't look like little kids anymore, and even the blondest kids usually have darker hair. Aside from the physical changes, 2-1/2 years is almost a fourth of an 11-year-old's life. It's truly a stretch for them to remember that far back.
So it was a shock to me to come back and discover that kids I had known since I was 2 had no memory of me. I couldn't blame them, because I was having a hard time recognizing them, too. It wasn't long before I gave up on the old friends and started to make new ones.
While the kids forgot me, their moms didn't. When they make the connection between the middle-aged woman they see in front of them and the child they once knew, the first comment is invariably, "Didn't you used to be blonde?" I usually answer something like, "Yes, but now I get to pick any hair color I want."
Last weekend I ran into one of those moms, who was with her daughter. She introduced us and then turned to her daughter and asked, "Don't you remember Margaret?" I could have told her that her daughter didn't remember me 6 months after I left town, but I refrained. The poor daughter looked totally baffled. Good grief, it has been 42 years since we moved to Mississippi, but the mom persisted, asking the standard question, "Margaret, didn't you used to be blonde?" That didn't help either. The daughter turned to me and asked me my maiden name. "The same as it is now," I responded, taking the awkwardness to new heights.
She turned to her mother and said, "I just don't know." Meanwhile, I was remembering the dinner I made the mistake of eating with her family and how her father wouldn't let me leave the table until I had eaten every. single. bite. I came from a family that allowed children to stop eating when we were full and I was absolutely stunned that this man would think my eating habits were any of his business. Just thinking about it has my stomach begging for an antacid.
Still, the mother wouldn't give up. "Are you sure you don't remember her?" At this point, I was starting to wonder if someone had thrown a cloak of invisibility over me. Did they realize I was still standing there...and that I could hear them?
I was feeling sorry for the daughter because it wasn't her idea to be placed in such a difficult position. But then she leaned towards her mother and said, "I don't know. I'm not even sure we're the same age."
Excuse me? I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or insulted, but I was sure that I was done with the awkwardness of the entire conversation. "Yeah, we're the same age, and I remember you. It was nice seeing you again."
I still feel bad for the daughter, even if there's a possibility that she thought that I was older than she is. (Surely she thought that she was the older one though, don't you think?)
At least I won't be eating another meal with her family. Oh dear, where is that darn antacid?
Until next time,
I thank my God every time I remember you. ~ Philippians 1:3