If I could go back, what would I change? Would I go back to the time when the nurse stuck her hand inside of me, feeling my cervix, with full knowledge that infection would spread and my gut would nearly rot and I’d turn my head to the left toward that little green plastic chair?
If I could go back, what would I change? Would I memorize his password, scrolling through his phone to see text messages and sordid details? Would I walk gingerly through the reasons that splintered my past relationship? All I see there is trust, cracking like an eggshell. Going back means watching my past life break on the floor like a wine glass, shards piercing my hands as I reach down. Blood poured out, and I felt another kind of ache.
But sometimes, just for a moment, I want to go back and feel my baby’s skin. To touch my hand to her cheek, which was round and soft like the underbelly of a duck. I want to go back to that night she wore the pajamas with little white bunnies, when her eyes looked through me and made my head well up with tears. I missed the first four weeks of her tiny little life, the hospital machines beeping an incessant refrain. “I’m so sorry I was gone,” I whispered. She looked past my face and pressed into my womb, the home that she came from. It’s alright, momma. You’re home.
Maybe I would march right back in time and wag my finger in my own damn face, telling myself to travel more, live more, free myself more from my rigid upbringing. Get my ass out into the world. But if I was in Paris before, how would I experience it for the first time last year, like a flower opening its buds in the Spring? How would I be able to replace that feeling of wonder?
I think the past is more like a thread, woven in and out. Going back down, up again and through. All of those memories appear at random times as I turn over the quilt in my hands and feel the stitching. Remember that time, Suzanne, that we watched the Cosby show for hours while our friends were papering houses? They got in trouble and we were like serves you right, suckahs. Remember that time that I tried to be the perfect housewife, baking bread on Mondays? Remember how good the bread tasted, slathered with that English butter that I always felt bad buying because it was so expensive? Remember all those prayers I said in silence with a clenched fist?
How could I forget. What flat-out nonsense was all that anyway, trying so hard to be the good girl.
I’m in the phase of life now that doesn’t require looking back as often. Perhaps it’s because there’s less in front of me and I want to enjoy the view. Maybe it’s because I enjoy so much the man sitting next to me on the journey. I am trying to soak in whatever phase my children are in right now, regardless of whether they are sweaty and caked with mud. And when I travel, I see it all in a different lens. The shutter is open, the angle is wide, and I allow more light to enter. I want to use time more wisely. Sip coffee more slowly. Talk to one person at a dinner party instead of twenty. Build back trust in a friendship that I’ve broken. A beautiful thing that time gives to humanity is wisdom. I don’t need to reach back in time to get it. I have it now, like a treasure in my hands. God has used all my past to form an intricate and beautiful design, one in which I didn’t see at the time. Back then, all I saw was a room littered with torn fabric.
Looking back shows us how far we’ve come, but it doesn’t control us. The quilt is still being stitched together. Choose the colorful pinks and the richest blues. The darkest browns and the most brilliant purples. Watch the edges being formed and the corners spun. And allow the peace of God to settle upon you, warmed by what is already sewn.
There is nothing I would change if I could go back in time. Except to tell myself that it will all be okay. That God has a pattern that involves all these jagged and ripped pieces. Things can be re-born, wonder can emerge. It’s never too late to keep adding on squares. To be bold and elegant and silly and brave.
Go toward your patched-together future. The kind you can rest your head on. The kind that’s passed down and loved. The kind of life that’s well earned, and well worn, and later spreads out atop the earth, for lovers to picnic upon and frolic, eating cheese sandwiches and little cups of wine.
This is the future that awaits you. It’s sewn together strong.