Eli, 28, Illustrator
I’m nine years old and I’m driving across the country with my mother for the fourth time in so many months, on my way back to South Carolina from Arizona. This was third grade and I was on school number four for that year. Fifth grade was in Georgia, and you’d think I could use this as a starting point for remembering fourth grade. But I’d moved around between parents so often during that period that I missed the better part of the first semester of fifth grade and, in the shuffle, somehow misplaced all of fourth grade. I often have flashes that I pick up, like leftover pieces from a finished Lego set, that I think are from that year, but they don’t seem to fit even after I’ve scoured the instructions. These are the most important memories I have as a child only because I don’t have them anymore.
Growing up and looking back at our lives, we all have different systems in place to best catalogue memories for easy access when the time comes for their retrieval. My system is more a Rolodex style of memory storage. Some memories resonate at full volume, with bright neon Post-It notes marking them as important and easy to find. The more banal entries are marked with the wrinkled and bent tabs that are easily passed over and categorized as being of no real substance. Then there are the memories that were somehow lost along the way — perhaps from infrequent use, or in some cases because the memory is slated for entry, but through some random act it simply falls by the wayside, never to appear again. My fourth grade year slides into the final category. I have no complete memory of this time in my life and I want it back.
There are often times as children when our parents ask to borrow small pieces of time from us, always with the promise and intention of returning them completely intact. Trust is built through this as children and we don’t think twice about lending ourselves out in times of necessity, a family crisis, death, divorce, hardship. Sometimes, though, we make bad investments. My fourth grade year was the price I paid for my parents’ bad investment when they were divorced, and I was more than generous with my childhood assets.
I don’t want interest for all the years I’ve gone without the memories I forfeited to you, I just want that year back in full.