WHO ARE YOU NOW? DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE SOMEONE?

Fandango’s Provocative Question #80


From Fandango, a deep, philosophical question. We need some of those because everything else is about disease or the news.

“I saw this question on a site that offers up a bunch of “deep, philosophical” questions and this one intrigued me. It’s about evolution, but not in the context of Darwin’s evolution of the species. It’s more about evolution of the individual and about who you are and how you change over time.

Here’s this week’s question, which is essentially about you. I hope you’ll have fun with it.”

That’s a pretty good question, actually. I am not at the “forgetting” stage of life. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember events, especially those which were significant, but I’m losing a lot of the details. Many formative life events go back more than 60 years. A lot of life has been lived since then.

If you think of your brain like a computer’s RAM, there comes that moment when you either have to offload material onto an external drive, or get a bigger, badder computer. The opportunity to get a bigger brain has not presented itself. Yet. You never know. Massive brain extensions might just come along any day now. If so, sign me up.

Otherwise, the me that I am is an amalgam of everything I was, wherever I’ve been plus all the people I’ve known, loved, hated, lost, or somehow just faded out of my life.

I often think my life is like a long flight of stairs. I remember a few things from when i was very young … before I could even speak. The next time I have a clear memory is moving to our house in Queens and meeting the girls who would be my friends for the next 16 years. The woods. Building “forts” and drinking lemonade while playing killer Monopoly on Mary’s front porch. The accumulated sunburns of childhood and wondering how I managed to avoid skin cancer, all things considered.

Piano lessons. Starting to play when I was just four years old and my legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals. They had to put blocks on the pedals for me. I was really tiny. I complained a lot about having to practice, so one day my mother stopped giving me lessons until I begged her to bring them back. I never complained again. Music got “stuck” in my soul and never left. I would have been a musician except, it turns out, that loving music doesn’t necessarily give you the talent to perform it. I still love it and I play a little bit. I’ll be playing more as soon as I get my new strings.

Piano lessons?

I remember seeing Dumbo maybe half a dozen times one year because that was when my sister was born and the aunts who were taking care of me kept taking me to the movies. The same movie, as it turned out. My one and only trip to Rockefeller Center was to see Dumbo. Again. I was a permanent animation addict and still am. In between wanting to be a ballerina — my mother took me to see the NY City Ballet and I fell in love with the dancers — I also decided I could be a cartoonist. I actually had a little talent for cartooning, but by then, a love of words had intruded into my brain and wormed it’s way right into my soul.

No matter what I studied in college, I knew I was going to be a writer. I remember the first stories I wrote, my brief foray into poetry, getting my first professional writing job, then getting the next one … and many of the ones that followed. I never stopped writing. I also never stopped taking pictures or playing piano … until the arthritis in my hand made it impossible.

Here I am. Seventy-three. I can’t play piano anymore, but I can strum on a ukulele and am working on two different pennywhistles and a three-string cigar box guitar. It’s part of my life and there are people who still think of me as a musician because I got to know them while I was studying music in college. I don’t worry about the “long-term” future. I don’t know how long I’ll live, but I’ve survived so much, I figure I deserve some moderately healthy, if old, time to be me — whatever that is.

I remember Israel very well. Not so much the people as the place. The Old City. The open spice markets. Climbing to the top of the Old City wall, imagining the Romans attacking the city and “holding the fort.”. Lachish where the Egyption had an outpost down near Rehovot. A lot of work-related activity because it was in Israel where I learned to deal with software and write about it. The little English-language newspaper I ran — the most fun I have had on any job.

Leaving Israel and coming home — and realizing I felt like a foreigner. I feel like a foreigner now, too. Times have changed so much and so fast.

My home in Baka, Jerusalem. I lived on the second floor.

I still write. Probably more than ever, but this time, I write what I want, not what I’m paid to say. I still take pictures, even though the technology has changed enormously. I don’t know if I’m a better photographer than I was. I think a lot of the work I did very early on may have been more artistic and because I worked in a dark room, more “mine” that the work I do now. So f I’m maybe better or maybe worse than I was more than 40 years ago, but I’m less into portraits and much more into birds and critters and wild spaces  I became a climate believer in Israel, spending almost 6 years working for the Environmental Health Laboratory at the University of Jerusalem. That has carried me through the years. I’ve been beating people up over clean water for decades — for all the good it has done. In the 1980s it seemed urgent. In 2020, it’s a dire necessity that we change our ways of doing just about everything if we want to continue to live on this planet.

I can’t remember all the cats and dogs I’ve had in my life. I remember the first ones and those from the past 35 years. In between, I mostly remember work. It used to amuse me that all my girlfriends got pretty clothing and make-up and perfume for their birthdays and Christmas. I got briefcases and computer accessories … and when I was lucky, cameras and lenses.

I still read history and science fiction and fantasy with occasional forays into criminals and cops and courtrooms. I actually love courtroom dramas and sometimes I’m sure I could do a better job than the fictional ones. There were a couple of years when I couldn’t go a single day without watching “Law and Order,” but I’m in recovery. I’ve given up collecting dolls and ancient Chinese pottery, but there’s still an awful lot of collectibles in this house.

So. After all the sturm und drang of my early years, I’m comfortably married to Garry. Thirty-years this September. This one is until death do us part.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

18 thoughts on “WHO ARE YOU NOW? DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE SOMEONE?”

  1. A great post, Marilyn. We are, as you say, the sum of our experiences and the people and places along the way. My biggest fear is that I’ll begin to forget those experiences, those people, and those places. If (or when) that happens, who will I be?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We could have done better with our money. But it’s hard to regret our lives. We had FUN. We did what we could, sometimes more than we could reasonably do. I got to do the one thing I always wanted to do and that was live in another country with a very different culture. I think EVERY American should do that, even if it’s just for a few months. We are so provincial in the U.S. We think everywhere is just like here, but they talk funny.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. If you saw Dumbo “a half dozen times” you must have learned to fly, right? You really don’t need the feather.
    Yeah we change for sure. We better or we’re wasting our time here. We learn in spite of ourselves I guess.
    When I see an old movie that I haven’t seen in a while, it should be with new eyes. Or a book. Or an old friend.
    Have a nice August.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw the “old” Dumbo and last year, the “new” Dumbo which bore very little resemblance to the old one. There was a lot of not-so-subtle racism in the first one that bothered me even when I was a kid, but bothers me a lot more today.

      Speaking of watching “old” Disney shows, we watched season 1 of “Davy Crockett” last night. Obviously not exactly “real history,” but they snuck some real history into it, including Crockett’s last speech to Congress when he said that our signature on a treaty with Native Americans was written in our own blood and as far s he could see, congress was just a bunch of crooks. Funny about that! Davy Crockett was America’s first media icon. The press followed him everywhere. He was a very big deal and pretty much everything he said was written up in some newspaper somewhere.

      Garry and I were amused that there’s second year of Davy Crockett remaining since he was killed at the Alamo at the conclusion of the first year. I remember that tickling my brain when I was a child, but hey, it’s Disney. Accurate history wasn’t their thing.

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      1. I heard that new Dumbo was awful. Was I surprised? NO.
        Oh I loved those old Davy Crockett movies. Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen. They were awesome. Lots of tongue in cheek humor in there – like when he shoots the bullet ricocheting around the room and catches it in his teeth. LOL! Great stuff. And the song was great too: “Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier” … “Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three”. O ya, great memories. You know, I always wanted a coon skin hat. Thanks for the memories.

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    2. I always bring new eyes to old movies. That’s why I can enjoy them time and time again. Plus, the old movies are so much more interesting than the new stuff. I’ll take the old flicks with SCRIPTS over the new movies with blasting sound and gynormous CGI effects.

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      1. You know Garry, I watch some of these new movies and two weeks later I can’t remember even 2 scenes from movie. Is it just me? or is there nothing there that sticks to you? I think I know the answer.

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    1. Mine seems to be in chapters. There’s Part 1: Growing up, Part 2: Crazy Youth and Early Marriage, Part 3: Israel, Part 4: Everything Else. And each part is VERY different. I changed dramatically from section to section. About the only things that stayed with me were music, photography, and writing. And guess what? That’s still what I have now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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