Understanding Our Past, Understanding Ourselves

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– How Our Memories Shape Us
When reflecting upon memories or visions of the past, whether melancholic or blissful, life lessons are the direct product of the perception or knowledge one retains from their past and applying it to the present and the future, for the sake of one’s own children. Though not dealing solely on role models, places and things experienced (negative or positive), the most likely solitary component in growth as a person or that which envelopes our most intimate recollections and touches our soul, is the influence of family.
In amalgamating “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden and “The Key to My Father” by Harlan Coben, a child’s perception of “father’s coldness” or as Hayden states “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking, When the room’s were warm, he’d call”(15) and in some cases while growing up, as stated by Coben, “I would try my hardest to tiptoe past his door, but no matter how great my stealth, he would jerk upright in his bed as if I’d dropped a Popsicle on his stomach”(57), concerning his father’s annoyingly light sleeping habits while during his teenage years, may just be a tiny window to the vast emptiness he may have suffered by feeling unappreciated, “used and abused”, or always worrying about the safety and “correct path” of his children. It may be the case that, despite barely having time to himself or his own sanity, fathers often maintain perseverance with silent displays of integrity, protection, and unconditional love for his family…..
By trading hard work and dedication for constant back-talk or blatant disobedience, the coldness or intimidation of a strict, hard working father could be the guilty conscience children may experience as a direct result of the misinterpretation of the possibility that, maybe his father was just not sure how to show his love. The fact may quite possibly be, he was never shown it by his father. Yet, someday acknowledging the fact that, by being the maker of one’s young memories, one grows to ultimately cherish and appreciate their father and pass on those learned teachings and lessons to their own children. Though different for every human being, most have had the influence from a father’s work as never done, mattering not occupational or domestic. “Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold” (Hayden 15). Ultimately coming to the realization, through maturity, that maybe father did know best and his work never was finished…..
In comparing similarities and contrasting differences in “Once More to the Lake” by E. B. White and “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self” by Alice Walker, it is obvious that both Authors are raised in different “walks of life”. Though both began as happy-go-lucky children, both looking up to their fathers, and initially reflecting on childhood memories; Ms. Walker’s experiences take a sad turn early in life. A normal girl, eventually turning into a childhood full of despise and hate, as a result of a being shot in the eye with a BB gun by her brother. She goes on to explain in detail, the emotional suffering, embarrassment, and name calling of being and feeling different and ugly and in turn, never wanting to look up, and eventually turning her whole world dreadfully ugly, asking “Did I imagine the anguish of looking up?”(43). The experience makes her lose all touch with what she truly desired and what her childhood dreams entailed, feeling victim and recalling bad things always happening to her. Eventually by letting hate and negativity overcome her true happiness by losing sight of the dreams that created exactly who she was initially. In the end of the story, recalling the time that her daughter looked into her eye and told her it was the World. She seemed as though it was like waking up from a nightmare; a very long, suffering, torturous nightmare…..
In dissimilarity, yet kind of reciprocally similar of “Once More to the Lake” to “Beauty”, Mr. White fluidly describes the happiness he felt as a child, going to the lake with his family. Years later taking his son, he feels as though he’s still that little boy living inside himself. He reflects or envisions how it was for him, comparing it to the feelings he gets living with that inner child, and how he’s taking it all in as grown up possibly the same way his father took it all in. Slowly blemish the story with negativity, by the end nothing really seems positive to him. He states how advances in technology and times seem to take away the “Peace and goodness and jollity” (26/27), ultimately ending and mentioning descriptive phrases like “deathless joke” (28) and “chill of death” (29)…..
Life is like a 1000 piece puzzle, the pieces just need to be placed together neatly, guided by our fathers, mothers, and teachers as a child. Then so reveals the last masterpiece of one’s own legacy in which we as people choose the colors. The only needs in this world are the wholeness of oneself, your friends and family, and to forgive all those who oppose or who show the capacity of hatred. We are where we are in life, not by anyone else’s doing, but by how we choose to perceive people, things, consequences, and our memories. As a direct result, what makes us who we are is how we are brought up, the lessons we’re taught, the actions we take, and the lives we inspire; whether father, son, daughter, mother, or teacher. Our memories are the canvas, easel, and palette of the futures of both us and our children.