I like to imagine a cosmic balancing scale: for each wrong there is a right, for each pain there is a pleasure, for each loss a gain. Maybe this way of seeing allows me to taste the glass half-full when by disposition I tend towards pessimism. Or maybe I simply prefer symmetry wherever and whenever I can find it.
When my stepmother died some twenty-nine years ago, my niece was born fewer than twenty-four hours later. Those events seemed to balance each other out quite fittingly: death, birth.
And the day of my mother's death is the day of my father-in-law's birth. The day before is my nephew's birthday.
I chose my graduate school in part based on its proximity to my then-boyfriend. That relationship flamed out spectacularly. But then, on the very first day of graduate school, the day first-year students were summoned in staggered lots to register, I met my future husband thanks to the first two digits of our social security numbers, 07 for us both, a New York State prefix: we were grouped together.
My husband has been reading college applications. One essay question reads something like this: If you could choose one year to go back or forward in time, which year would you choose, and why? You thought, "I'd kill Hitler," didn't you? I know I did, but eventually rejected it. A member of Hitler's inner circle would surely have stepped in to fill the gap created by killing Hitler. The conditions in Germany in the 20's and 30's were ripe for fomenting anti-Semitism. To change the course of World War II you might need to intervene in World War I, and then you'd probably spur some other terrible conflict in the attempt.
College applications aside - saving the world aside - I would love to be a fly on the wall in my very own past, to verify whether how I remember is in fact how it was. To spend time again with people I loved who are now permanently lost to me. To change things? To fix whatever went wrong? Well, every time I go down that path I end up without my present life, without my children. I'd have other children, no doubt, but how could they replace these, the ones here now?
I'll take my balancing scale, thank you. There's always a way to zero the scale, no matter how many steps it takes to get there. Perhaps it's a childish, or rather a child-like, way of being, not so different from playing Loves Me, Loves Me Not with the petals of a daisy.
On the other hand, if aging has taught me anything, it is that being child-like as an adult is neither uncommon nor in the least bit undesirable.