I remember very clearly being about 2 or 3 and having just outgrown one of my favorite dresses. I had a complex thought in my head and tried to express it to my mom, but it came out as, "I can wear it next time when I'm a baby again!" I immediately felt stupid because those weren't the right words. But I didn't know the right words. My mom made me feel worse when she laughed and started explaining that people get older, not younger. I pouted and thought to myself the toddler equivalent of "Duh, mom!"
It amazes me how very young kids seem to instinctively grasp the concept of reincarnation in a way that makes me think maybe it IS just that simple.
Little Gert and I have had several existential conversations about people who have died and come back as new babies. And fish who die and are reborn as cats. And people who come back as mosquitoes (which I firmly believe will become of at least one person I've had the misfortune of knowing in this lifetime).
I find it a much more comforting philosophy than anything I was ever taught about heaven or any other version of the afterlife. That, in fact, this is the afterlife, and the life after that, and the life after that, until you finally "get it" and break the cycle.
Gertrude has been here before, I'm certain of it. She seemed to have been born anxious to bypass babyhood and develop enough motor control to start her current inquisitive journey. All the time she screamed and fidgeted as a tiny baby, it seemed like she was impatient. She wanted to hold her head up, and when she could do that, she wanted to stand, and then she wanted to walk, and now she wants to read and write. Sometimes I see her sitting on the couch with big, fat novels, without pictures to hold her attention, just staring intently at the pages as if she's saying to herself, I know this…
I also like the idea that groups of souls travel together and find each other again and again, that your brother may once have been your best friend. Or that your true love was your true love many times before. I was describing this idea to Matilda and her eyes lit up at the thought. I told her that when she was born, I recognized her, in a way that's impossible to describe in words.
One of the most beautiful concepts I think I've ever heard is that given an unspecified number of lifetimes, sooner or later we will all have been a parent to each other. The woman who butts in front of you in line at the drugstore, the boss who berates you, the kid on the playground who kicks dirt at you…at one point this person may have held you and loved you unconditionally, taken care of you while you were sick, rocked you to sleep. I find it very difficult to hate anyone when I think of that, maybe because as a mother I know what that kind of love feels like.