The Day That Never Was

There was no Feb. 29, 1977.

Between Monday, Feb. 28th and Tuesday, March 1st, I wrote in the diary, in the space allotted: “How would you like to be caught in this space of time, between yesterday and tomorrow? And change what happens.”

Why, yes. Yes, I would.

But hey, hang on. I started this post with a plan: it would be all free-form and “atmospheric” (whatever the hell that means). I’d write something that was miles away from what I was really feeling, just to ostensibly please a readership.

But that’s not why I’m blogging again. As I mentioned previously, the essence of these stories lies in the questions, the connections that somehow over the years were never connected.

So back to the source, the diary. Why did I write that then? And why does it interest me now?

I guess the equation is simple: I was asleep > I woke up > I fell in love > My parents died > My love went away > I’m still here. Atop that heap is another mountain of memories, letters, postcards, slides, photographs—the ephemera of a lifetime. Sorting through all that’s been, well, a tad overwhelming. Digging through a new box is an activity fraught with both menace and intrigue.

On a dive back into the photo boxes, and while reading the 1977 diary, I found Feb. 29—The Day That Never Was—something of a gift. I thought about all the photos I knew I’d have to throw away: of landscapes the photographer probably couldn’t recognize even if he or she were still alive; pictures of events that went unlabeled and undated, ones that will never be confirmed by the person who was actually there taking the photo … those were the Days That Never Were, because there’s no one left to remember them.

Days we call “wasted.” “It was a bad month.” “That year? It was a terrible year.”

I know I do that. I’m sure most people do. But of course I’m still alive. I still remember things; I still wake up to this dream called life—so—

—So, just like that: Under the eiderdown; the groan of a window being opened; a blast of icy mountain air, then the shuffle of feet and a door closing. We both groggily peep over the covers and turn to the window—there it is! How beautiful! Beyond gabled German rooftops, snow-capped mountains hulk over Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It could be March 1978.

Or, 30 years later, late spring, a back alley in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We’re holding hands, staring at a painting of Betty Boop on a garage door.

Back again, 37 years before that, a junior high school social studies class. The blinds are down because a filmstrip on Brazil is about to get underway. You wink at me because it’s dark and we’re laughing about the teacher who can’t seem to get the filmstrip loaded. I’m thinking about Brazil’s coffee production by enjoying a cup of dark coffee with milk, while eating a Brazilian banana. When the blinds come up, it’s time to stare out the window again.

Another wasted day.

Or, never-years later, tall oak trees shading a lakeside beach, with the daughter we never had, who’s seven years old now and likes to read whenever we go to the lake. I see you looking at her admiringly, her spider-soft eyelashes squinting down at the page, absorbed in the story she’s reading. A breeze shoves in from the south and I glance out at the glittering waves. A glance back and I’m thinking that I’ve never loved you both more than I do at that moment.

Then I realize you never got to meet my mother. She had to leave but said she’d be right back. It was awkward, I know. She would’ve loved you both as much as I do. She might not have said that, but I can just tell she would have meant it.

Now the smell of gasoline from an outboard motor, the steady splashing of water at the dock, the muted roar of a speedboat. I remember it. In a way, it’s actually very serene: watching Dad as he fishes at the end of the dock, patiently eyeing his bobber.

Damn.

Memories are, pure and simple, poor requests for wish fulfillment. I want to see Mom come back from her bike ride. I’m comforted knowing that when Dad loses the last fish, he’ll hang up his gear and, fragrant-sweet with pipe smoke, come home and sit down to dinner. But we did that. I was there. I remember that.

What if anything were possible? What if the memory was the possible?

And what if just turning the page on the day that never was revealed a bright, crisply lined new page…

A day that could be?

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~ by completelyinthedark on January 14, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Day That Never Was”

  1. compelling as ever! Memory traces, enhanced/obscured by photographs, giving us exactly what we want right NOW. It’s all there…as you become your promise….

    Still, they *were* the Days That Were…because YOU remember it. Best part? You get to redefine it in the context of all there ever is…presence, which is its Gift to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Jeff!

    Like

  3. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    A new year, another one gone. Reposting this seemed timely, so here’s another shot at The Day That Never Was. Never stop asking questions. Keep on turning the page and filling it up with the best you can give the world. All-new post next Friday. Peace, Mike

    Like

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