Some time back, during my days in Verizon’s employment, my work location was, for a time, in Madison, NJ. The town of Madison is a quaint, quiet suburb of middle to upper-middle class homes set in a semi-rural setting with a downtown that imbues a New England-style ambience. The geography of the area involves narrow streets winding their way through small, rolling hills intersected by a main thoroughfare. The population is decidedly WASP which explains the augmented Christmas decor of the shops and houses when the season comes along. There was a growing yuppie class taking root when I worked in Madison which, with proper deduction, meant the highlighting of the holiday season would continue for at least another generation or two.
I worked with a fine group of people, male and female alike, that enjoyed using our lunch hour as a time to explore the neighborhoods and parks of Madison, NJ. There was always at least three of us and no more than five or six when each day we varied our exploration by traversing different routes. During our travels, the conversation was thrust among topics such as our jobs (no doubt), or friends, family, politics, etc, but one particular point of discussion would recur at a regular interval, particularly when a newcomer to our walks was present. It was a question put forth as such: “If you could go back in time to any point in your life, what moment would you choose?” Simple enough, except there were rules:
- You could return to this point in time fully aware of the events that were about to occur and you would have the ability to alter them, if possible.
- Even though you would be aware of what was to happen, you would not have the means to change the circumstances of your life.
There initially was a third alternative, and that was you would not be aware that you even went back in time and all would resume from that moment on as if you never came from a future. We dropped that choice because it made no sense. “Been there, done that” has no place in time travel.
The overwhelming choice of most of us was option number one, of course. The ability to relive your life from a single moment going forward with the knowledge of what the future holds is a no-brainer to most. There was mention of Microsoft or Apple stock purchases when these companies were new, betting on the 1969 Mets or Jets, keeping John Kennedy out of Dallas, seeing the Beatles live, as well as very personal revelations that surfaced in these discussions.
For my part, I have a particularly strong inclination towards the morning I awoke for school, journeyed downstairs to find my friend Mike waiting for me with the radio playing rather loudly. It was June 5th, 1968 and Bobby Kennedy had just been gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan. I was devastated, Bobby Kennedy was a personal hero of mine, I admired his compassion for people and his willingness to address the wrongs of our country that other politicians shied away from.
My friend was not a fan and expressed pleasure in Bobby’s demise. For me, it was a very sad time knowing this country was not going to have the savior I thought she needed. Why this particular morning among all the other moments of my life? I couldn’t tell you, but it lingers as a haunting juncture in my timeline, believing I fell off the path that morning and I never righted the ship.
“So that’s your choice?” I was asked by a co-worker, “that morning when Bobby Kennedy died? And you would choose what? To be aware of what things were to come with the ability to possibly change them? You know it would be too late to save Kennedy. Why not choose an earlier point in time? Find the means to warn someone of what was going to occur.” But my co-worker was missing the point: it wasn’t about Bobby Kennedy I was lamenting, it was more personal. That morning would be a launching pad for the years that would follow, to avoid the errors of my ways, appreciate the moments of joy that were so fleeting, proper goodbyes, sidestep the heartaches. The capacity to realign yourself with an earlier point in your life would be anathema if you make the wrong choices, events happen as they were meant to happen. That is a harsh and often unfair reality of living.
My fellow walkers waited for my answer, mulled their response to my possible choice, waited with questions and opinions about my life, wanting to know what would be different. It was a cool December day as we ambled the side streets of Madison. Most of the houses were adorned with the tidings of Christmas which was quickly approaching. There were colorful lights hanging from the eaves of the houses, pine trees on front lawns twinkling with electric lights amid even the light of the day. Plastic Santas and reindeer stood steadfast on rooftops, inflated snowmen swayed in the breeze, Fully lit and decorated Christmas trees were on displays in windows where they stood in parlors, many of them waiting for that morning when the eyes of children, wide with excitement and shouting with glee would discover the treasures and memories that Santa left them. My mind harkened back to those wonderful mornings my own children would wake to the magic of Christmas morning. The Mrs and I would have the tree lights on, holiday music playing on the stereo and a video on the television of a Yule log burning. Each and every one of those Christmas mornings were magical, perfect in form, structure and recall. Each and every one of them were, to me, the essence of life, of family love.“Wait a minute,” I told my co-workers, “ I want to change my decision, pick a different moment in my life to return to.”
Then I added: “and I wouldn’t change a blessed thing!”
RjCook’s is the author of The Road Behind Me and Dream Lover and Other Tales. Click HERE for info.