Those of you who have seen the brilliant comedy series ‘How I Met Your Mother’ have probably already recognized the term ‘revertigo’.
Revertigo is a name Marshall made-up for the phenomenon ‘when you’re around people from your past, you start behaving like them‘. It was introduced in Sandcastles in the Sand when Robin experiences this with her high school boyfriend Simon Tremblay.~ From How I Met Your Mother Wiki
About two months ago my daughter texted me a photo – one that means the world to her. The photo showed a young man of eighteen years in military uniform, a green beret on his head, and squinting into the sun. The photo was taken the day before he left to join the Border War, where just months before he completed his two years of military service, he lost a leg when the vehicle he drove hit a landmine.
I recognized him, the young man. It was the father of my daughter. I learned the photo was taken on the same day I was due to give birth to my… no… our daughter. The photo moved me. I felt sadness, more for him than for me, because he told me days after sending the photo to our daughter that he didn’t like it. The reason? Because it reminded him of his feelings when the photo was taken. He was afraid of going to the war, but at the same time he wanted to go, to get away from the pain of me abandoning him.
Because that’s what he and I had believed for 38 years. He believed I didn’t want him in my life anymore despite being pregnant, and I believed he had abandoned me. That I wasn’t good enough for him. Little did we know my parents were pulling the strings.
Like I said, the photo moved me, but that was it. I was glad my daughter had a picture of what her father looked like when she was born.
Then a week ago happened…
Part of the process of decluttering, I am going through my mom’s things. Nine boxes of papers, photos and books. I have already thrown away a lot of things. Old letters, wishing cards, and momentos of the trips she had taken. I am going through everything, looking at every paper and deciding whether to keep it or throw it away. I came across a baby blue box with a bowtie on it, recognizing it from my youth. Inside were all the cards and good wishes of her and my father’s wedding in December 1964. I kept those.
In a next box, I came across another blue box, much smaller than the other one, and one I couldn’t remember. I opened it and saw a couple of cards, which I threw away, and then my hand stopped… and I stared…
I recognized the house and the back garden. But it was the face in the photo that stopped me.
Seventeen years old in the photo.
My handsome boyfriend.
Something happened inside.
I returned to my fifteen-year-old self.
In that moment, looking at his image in my hand, I was a teenager again, and same love I felt back then, now filled my heart again.
I called my daughter, and while talking to her, texted her the image; told her I will bring the photo with me when I saw her a few days later.
For three days, the photo lay on my desk, and every time I looked at it, love filled my heart again. Not love for the man he is now, but love for my boyfriend. Every time I looked at his face, the thought crossed my mind: I was crazy about you.
The day after I gave my daughter the photo, I talked to my coach, and I told her about my teenage feelings when looking at the photo. That I returned to being fifteen, and remembered how much he had meant to me; what a big role he had played in my life back then.
Two days later, while watching How I Met Your Mother, Marshall mentioned the term ‘revertigo’.
Exactly the thing I ‘suffered’ from when looking at my boyfriend’s face on that old photograph: revertigo.
And I wondered: is that what will happen if he and I stand face to face again? Will we revert to being fifteen and seventeen again?
I’m piecing together what had happened back then, not after he supposedly abandoned me, but before. I can remember only snippets of our relationship, having shoved everything to the dark corners of my mind, because it hurt too much. I already remember more than I did, some of it with his help. What my parents did, they did out of love, and wanting to protect me, but it had marked me for life, and was the start of a lot of pain in my later life.
But that’s a post for another day.