Childhood memories all the more precious after 9/11

As part of my ongoing effort to not gain my age in weight annually, I recently have taken to trying hypnosis.  Every night I faithfully put on earphones and listen to the tape of a man telling me all kinds of wonderful things about the self-control I have lurking in my subconscious.  Apparently it can’t fight its way through the crowd screaming for sugar free cookies long enough to be heard.  But this tape swears it will eventually bring it to the forefront of my mind.

Until then, I spend about 20 minutes each night going into somewhat of a hypnotic state. But instead of focusing on the sound of the words being said, I find myself travelling light years away and always ending up in my childhood.  As the voice on the tape tells me to count down from ten to one, my mind immediately envisions going down stone stairs in a dark room that lead to a light.  On the other side of that light is my childhood.

I go there joyfully and willingly each night. I may not be doing the exercise correctly for the weight loss program, but I am certainly doing something correctly for my psyche.  I visit relatives long gone, play games now almost forgotten.  One minute I am an achy older lady of a certain age and the next I am a child drawing a hopscotch board in the alley next to the store. My friends and I throw heel we begged from the Mr. Petrillo’s shoe repair shop into the chalk boxes.

One minute I am a mature women with a mortgage and responsibilities and the next minute I am on the beach in Atlantic City spending endless afternoons fascinated by the waves; jumping through them, leaping over them, swimming with them till they hit shore and my belly drags on the sand.  My childhood friends call out when the ice cream man approaches. We eagerly order up a frozen concoction that will drip down our hands and on to our feet necessitating another swim to clean off the mess while our parents warn us about going in the water too soon after eating.

When this first started to happen, I wondered why my mind kept bringing me back there – back to this time when my whole world was encompassed in about ten city blocks and every one I knew was Italian, Catholic and probably a relative.  And then it occurred to me.  The whole journey started as the anniversary of September 11 approached.  The more the media talked about it, the more articles I read about it, the more photos that started to appear, the more vivid these dreams of a trouble free childhood became.

I know they are just dreams because I know my childhood wasn’t all that perfect and care free.  The seeds of my adult emotions were planted in my childhood and they are not all good.  But they were never as bad as what children must suffer now that September 11 has become reality.  In the world of the 1950s, the only thing we really had to fear was nuclear war and communism. The nuns told us that if we stood in the hallway facing the wall with our hands over our heads, we’d survive nuclear war. And communism was just a big word that somehow connected with communists who were godless and therefore more to be prayed for than feared.

But now our children have enemies with very real faces who can deliver destruction right to their doorsteps.  And the security of childhood must vanish in face of that reality. 

I wish I could give it back to them. I wish I could give them the surety of the world in which I spent my childhood. Maybe our parents just kept us a little more na�ve. Maybe the TV news only lasted 15 minutes and, without fancy graphics and pictures, just bored us so we didn’t listen to the horrors in the world. For whatever reason, it seemed safer then.

One of the kids that shared that childhood with me died in the cockpit of the plane that hit the south tower of the world trade center.  For those of us who share the memories of growing up in Ducktown in Atlantic City, that ending is almost unimaginable.  It slashes like a red bloody stroke through the pictures in my mind. And it reminds me daily why I am so grateful to have had those years of carefree life. Before the war was brought to our doorsteps. Before the horror came into our homes.