The game I play most frequently is, “Where are my keys? I just had them! They were right here!!!” As amusing as that can be for neighbors and casual passersby, the activity I much prefer is referred to as “If I could see me now, then.” I certainly did not invent it and most of us do it, often without giving it a name. In my version, I am an “Our Town”-like observer, able to witness but not influence events. The scene of my present to be viewed in my past only lasts for a minute or two. It is an opportunity for my much younger, more judgmental self to get a peak at who I have become.
The present me will often smile at how the teenage me would roll his eyes at how I have sold out. I take a perverse pleasure at getting my old self in situations that would totally baffle my early self. To play the game you must find yourself in an incongruous spot, and conjure the age you were when you would find the event/activity the most confusing or vexing.
If my editor (JoAnne) is with me and we are not in harm’s way because of a wrong turm I made, taking us from a dicey/sketchy neighborhood into one where people are actually exchanging gunfire, she will often play along. We had a game just last month. My college self is watching for clues to his future. I am driving a very large Jeep vehicle. A much older woman is with me. It is JoAnne. On closer look, I have aged a bit also. JoAnne and I are yawning as we leave the city of Atlanta by highway at dusk. We are in a massive traffic jam and somehow lost at the same time. My young self, after getting over the short hair, decides that I/he must have moved to Georgia, which was never in any of my five year plans, if I had bothered to construct any. JoAnne is waving around something about the size of a deck of cards, but it looks like a cross between a television and a scrap of one of those free roadmaps from the gas station. She is urging me to move three lanes to the right in the next eleven feet. Now the scene changes and I am sound asleep in a hospital atrium. I am wearing the same clothes I had on in the car, but now it is morning. I have become way too comfortable in the lobby, which is showing signs of life. The day people have come to visit patients and watch insipid cartoons, or they would if I were not sleeping on the remote. JoAnne wakes me. I follow her into a room where we must know the young woman in bed. She looks tired, but beautiful and happy. A young man by her bed smiles and hugs me.
I need to ditch the old hippie and be totally in the present. It is September 28th and our daughter Rachael has just given birth to our first grandchild.
Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer. He cannot wait to show Lake of the Isles to a little girl named Charlotte Easton Gillies.