Until I was about 17 or 18, if you had asked me what my favorite childhood memory was, I would have said this:
One night, when I was about three years old, my mom, dad, and dad’s best friend took me for a nighttime walk. The weather was warm; it was likely spring. My dad carried me on his back as everyone walked through a field of flowers. As he hiked through the grass, I held out my tiny hands to try and reach the flowers. I don’t recall any specific conversation but I remember laughter.
The memory is hazy and tantalizingly brief, much like a dream – I couldn’t tell you where this location was or anything that happened afterward. It’s inexplicable why this image resonated with me for long and why it remained such a favorite, especially when I had a happy childhood and have an arsenal of memories to choose from. I think this memory stood out because of the emotions it conjured from me – the solace and mystery of night, which I had long loved. The feeling of adventure, something I always crave but am sometimes afraid to pursue. The rosy, almost cliche happiness we all experienced. The idea of treading on an unknown path, not with trepidation, but with excitement.
It wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 that I seriously started questioning this memory. Why would my safety-conscious parents and their friend, a Navy Seal, decide to take a night-time stroll in what was a crime-ridden city? Both my family and my dad’s friend lived near a patch of trees, not a field full of flowers. It occurred to me that my favorite childhood memory may not be a memory after all, but just a dream.
I’ve never asked my parents if we really did take that walk all those years ago. For one, it seems like a stupid question to ask (“Did we ever take a walk outside at night when I was a toddler?”) But the real reason why I haven’t asked is I don’t want to know. I still want to believe it was real.