by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
July 15, 2004
A TRIGGERING OF THE IMAGINATION
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Imagine! That word usually sends me off into the netherworld of fairy dust and the wee people. Not tonight. Tonight my imagination has been triggered through a televised preview announcing "4400," an upcoming program about the return of 4,400 people who disappeared 60 years ago and returned all at once ... not having aged a day. They left; they returned, in this science fiction world of story-telling.
The premise was all I needed to trigger my own thoughts of "what if." I deliberately skipped watching the program and went back in time to, say, my birthday ... 60 years ago. I was twelve, going on 13, a magical time, won't you agree? I was studying for the Regents' Exam, a required test for Parochial School students entering high school in New York City. Did I take it that morning, did I pass it? Was that the day? Was that when my existence stopped only to resume today?
You ask where I was when I went missing. "Went missing? Went missing? I didn't 'go missing,' I disappeared and I don't know where I was. I was there and now I'm here."20
We were at war that one day ago but there are sixty years between today and yesterday. Did we win? Did my five brothers come home? Imagine not knowing the end of the stories, the telltale fabric of our lives? Mama? Papa? What happened to them? How did they live in the days after my last birthday? How did they die?
This is a formidable task, this searching through my memory for things I can legitimately remember as having happened before my birthday. I'm scanning back and forth, discarding this memory, holding tightly to another, all to bring me to me, to whom I am.
Nothing. I am absolutely nothing without the 60 years between then and now. From the first day of my life to the last one I remember clearly, nothing happened that would shape my character, form my personality, create my conscience. From morning until night, I was either in school - learning how to learn - or at play, where teamwork and fairness were the building blocks. Beyond that? What?
If I had died the day I disappeared the unfulfilled promise of my life would be written as "Here lies Connie, She had potential." But, I didn't die, I just was "absent" from my life for the next six decades while life went on without me.20
Did I go to my first dance? I don't know, I wasn't there. Was there even a dance?20
It's one thing to forget a life you've lived and have no memory of the family you grew from and the family you helped create. But, it's another thing to find you were frozen in time while life went on around you. Can I even conjure up a life worth living without including those whose lives were parallel mine during my days from then until now?
Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney coined the phrase "the music of what happens," and I'll dance to that. But, as I look over the supposedly missing sixty years, it has to be happening right now, today, this moment - or, I won't dance, don't ask me, if I may borrow that line.20
Heaney also wrote of what is common to all humanity. He spoke of its "not being the economic givens of your background but the state of readiness of your own spirit. In fact," he said, "the ability to start out upon your own impulse is fundamental to the gift of keeping going upon your own terms...." The terms as once inscribed in my personal book of life did not contain the codicil facing my imagination now.20
In that far ago time of my life, twelve-going-on-thirteen, there was an innocence, an unaquaintedness with any of "the music that happens" as it would have unfolded in the six decades excised from my time here. I would have arrived at this moment still innocent, not bearing the weight of history - nor any emotional baggage, as we call it today.20
At 12, I knew what hope was, I knew what faith was; but, I didn't have an inkling of what tragedy was. Nor did I know that the scant knowledge of hope and faith were enough to carry me through tragedy.20
Still imagining, if I stop at the door to the 60 years I'll never know, then I won't have to suffer the pain of losing so many I've loved. Ah, but I wouldn't have the joy of knowing and loving them, either. That's no trade off. The analogies would be wanting roses without thorns, preparing an omelet without breaking eggs.
There is a plan, you know. While looking over the events of my life looking for whatever I could find in those pre-teen years, I stopped at crossroads that came later. Yes, I did take a different road now and then in the sixty years I did live but it was in a direction necessary to get me here. And here is where I want to be, doing what I want to do, remembering who I was then and knowing I am where the blueprints placed me.
In our Declaration of Independence, we learned we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable Rights, "that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I believe it goes without saying that any thought of 60 years being taken away from us is pure fantasy. And, we learned in Ecclesiastics, Chapter 3, "For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die... ."
It is a plan, and it works for me. Any other notion is a fairy tale.