Tuesday, October 19, 2010

memory, loss

It's strange to me how we sometimes hold on to childhood memories as though they are absolute truths.

I reconnected with a classmate from 6th grade last year, and the first thing I thought of was how his desk was dumped nearly every week for being messy. That has been stuck in my mind for 30 years - the image of this shy kid sitting next to me with his desk crammed full of crumpled papers, resignedly waiting for our teacher to walk down the aisle and tip everything out; I was traumatized by this and certain he had been, too. Yet when I e-mailed John and relayed my story, he didn't recall any such travesty. In fact, he went on about how much he liked our 6th grade teacher because he was an outdoorsman and encouraged my classmate in running & hiking. Of course, I specifically did not like our 6th grade teacher for that reason (Run? Hike? I don't get it.) AND because he would humiliate (so I believed) kids for their lack of organizational skills. Not to mention he was so into nutrition that he called to chastise my mom when I said I had a Pop-Tart and orange juice for breakfast most mornings. The audacity, I'm sure.

Mr. Kloke died last month while rock climbing. My friend from 6th grade - the one who remembered that year far differently, and more fondly, than I did - had gotten in touch with him over the summer and encouraged me to do the same. But I couldn't shake those perceptions from my silly 11-year-old self and put it off, and now it's too late.

Clearly Mr. Kloke was not hurt by my ignorance - he passionately lived a full, adventurous life - but I am.