It is summer and I am small, four, perhaps. My baby sister is there, bright-eyed and laughing, two years old and gloriously carefree.
It is the most beautiful memory of my mother that I possess. Her hair is long and straight, brown, and her head is thrown back in laughter. She snaps pictures of us as we take turns sliding down our little red-and-white metal slide.
I see her now. My sister is at the bottom of the slide and I pull myself to the top, watching them below, pure joy, both of them.
And I feel, suddenly and inexplicably, a great sadness.
I grew up with that sadness, somehow. It's been there since that day, a deep sorrow that seems to have no particular cause nor hope for relief. It exists alongside that other inner constant, peace, and it makes little sense to me how such opposites can live so harmoniously together. But there they are, even today, deep sorrow alongside a peace that passes all understanding.
I think about that memory often. It is, as far as I can tell, my earliest one. It seems to me that it was the moment I became truly aware of my own existence, myself, a person separate from all others. Perhaps, then, the sorrow is more correctly a sort of loneliness. I am me and I am separate and I feel certain that one day, when the world is set right again, that feeling will no longer be with me. Until then, I think it's as much a part of me as my own heart, waiting for something that is too big and too grand to put into words.
Anyway. It's only a memory.