Can We Change the Past? (Part 2)
Part 1 of this blog post discussed Julian Barnes’ novel, The Sense of an Ending,
and its premise that we make stories of our lives. If this is true, we can change our lives,
change our pasts, by gaining new understandings that reshape our stories. I wanted to
relate this concept to a personal experience.
When I was a boy, my mother told me that if anyone laid a hand on me I should
tell her. She said she would deal with that person. I believed her because she was strong
in many ways, including her temper, her sense of humor, and her love.
My story takes place only a few years before the crucial events of the 1960s that
the narrator is recollecting in The Sense of an Ending. I was in fifth grade. During those
happy moments between classes when the kids would turn sideways and backwards in
their desk chairs and chatter until the noise level soared, a friend told me a joke and I
At that moment the principal entered the room. He strode directly to me and
started hitting me with an open hand.
“Laugh at me, will you?” he demanded as he struck my head and upper back
eight or ten times.
I was in pain and stunned. My friend and I exchanged puzzled glances.
I took my mother at her word and told her what happened.
She promised that she would go and speak to the principal and ask him to
apologize. But she never went.
In my next blog I’ll discuss how my perception of my
mother’s failure to act changed with the passage of years.