It is funny how memory comes in snips and folds of time, like fabric. When I think of my childhood my memories always come this way.
I remember learning to count change with you, dad– the years seem to come in loose change these days, piling up over time in piggy banks and jars to cash in on rainy days. You really were the center of my universe at that time; well– you, mom, Alyson, and Amanda. I felt a part of a magic show, and you the magician; you really had a magical way about you. You would pull change out of your pocket with an actor’s flourish. You would lay your palm flat and steady and place the coins side by side like minted universes orbiting each other. I remember studying you with adoring eyes.
You would exclaim, “Quick, don’t think! Pick a coin!”
And I would act on impulse and swiftly select my coin before you tightened your grip on those shiny metal circles. Quarters: no contest. No matter how much the copper glittered on those pennies, no matter how much that nickel or dime gleamed in the light, I would grab the quarter without a thought. But then it came to nickels and dimes. I was too young to count; too young to fully grasp numbers and their infinite nuances. I picked the nickel– it was larger than the dime, was it not?
You would laugh, not unkindly, and inform me that a dime, though smaller, was worth twice as much as a nickel. I remember scoffing at such a notion; how could something little hold something bigger than itself? I was baffled. I was young, but I saw the fallacy in this.
“Again!” you would shout, as if it was settled, even if it was anything but settled in my mind.
We would begin the routine again. Quarters beating out their smaller counterparts, nickels beating out pennies. And again, when faced with the nickel and the dime, without hesitation, when you would say, “Quick, pick without thinking!”, my tiny fingers would reach for the nickel as if grasping onto an idea.
I’ve thought of this snippet of time often. Epiphanies were not hard to come by at that tender age. I feel for many people they come slower every year. I reflect on the epiphanies bred of moments like this; grappling with the idea that something smaller can indeed hold more value, worth, and innards than something large. Like me; I too contained more inside me than the sum of my parts.
In later years I would read Whitman who summed up my epiphany with the words: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” I can only imagine this is how a parent feels. The intense feelings and complicated emotions of fear, love, awe, pride, et cetera, contained in one being for their child.
It made me struggle with the layers of things; the layer of thinking. It made me think about how greedy a decision on impulse can be. How, although you were my world– omniscient, everything– I did not take you on your word the first time. My impulses burned, my mind could not wrap around the concept of space and worth– thus, I could not yet believe your lesson. I had to assess it myself. How through this little trick, this game– that is where the real parenting happened.
I find beauty in such moments, cradled in the folds of time. And I find myself still unfolding epiphanies gleaned from you in younger years. There is something more to that than meets spatially meets the eye, isn’t there?