When I was a little girl, I could call up the view out my bedroom window wherever I was. I was about to type that the view was burned on my brain, tattooed on my retina, but I think those are too cliche even though they're really the truth.
Throughout my undergraduate studies I had panic attacks. I didn't know at the time what they were called but of course that's what they were. My coping skills included closing my eyes to the immediate recollection of that view. (Also huffing on Constant Comment teabags. I still keep some in my purse. Is this odd?)
So anyway the view out of my bedroom window as I was lying in bed (Misty gray wallpaper with mauve butterflies framed the view. Does this date me?) was a very distinct and enormous big-leaf maple branch. Any season of the year, I can sketch it for you: just budding out with pendulous yellow blossoms in April, gnarled and moss-covered and bare nakey (as my daughters would say) at Christmastime, completely obscured with huge light-dappled leaves most of the year.
The branch curved up and then down again with its own weight in the exact profile of the Karmann Ghia I later begged my dad for.
Daddy, it's so cute. Daddy, look, Molly Ringwald has one in Pretty In Pink. I will never ask for anything again if you get me the blue Karmann Ghia.
How about a Rabbit?
Not cute at all, Dad.
My ungrateful teen self got the diesel Rabbit. Eighty-three cents a gallon for diesel and 40-some miles to the gallon. Why did I get rid of that car? Oh yeah, because I let the gas station guy put oil in it and he was talking to me and put the oil in the coolant part (man, but he was cute) and then my car blew up when I was sneaking to Portland for a concert. And my dad had to rescue me and pay to put a new engine thingy in the car and then sell it to a boy who just turned out to be my future husband. That was fun. And there's a story or four for another day.
The view out my childhood bedroom window was comforting to me because under that branch was where I read all the great books of my babyhood. The branch arched over the heartbreaks of Pony Club and the joys of slumber parties and the one time I was ever "grounded" (my parents were a little liberal, but had their limits, which were located right about the point at which I attended a fraternity party when I was reportedly at a debate on the nearby college campus).
As hard as I am trying today, I can't see that view in the same way. I have been breathing through teabags and closing my eyes at random moments just to try to catch a glimpse of my branch.
I was wondering whether it's like Sarah's eyesight. She started out as close to blind as a baby can get without a red-tipped cane. Her lens prescription is changed every couple of months as her eyes grow. The hope is that she'll grow out of the particular problem, the name of which escapes me right now. When she was a preschooler we were told she saw in a similar manner as a bumblebee -- you know, with multiple frames all crammed together in their hexagons and pentagons and overlapping circles.
So my panic-stopping view is gone. Did I just outgrow it? It's faded away. I can describe it, I can paint it, but I can't really see it. And then I looked out my office window -- there's even a big-leaf maple there -- but this newish view has none of the history I need to stop the hyperventilation at a critical point.
Maybe what I really need is to go buy myself a Karmann Ghia.