Madeleine and I took a stroll through Chinatown last week. Apparently, Melbourne's Chinatown is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world. What does that mean, do you think? Do other Chinese settlements stop being Chinese and then start again? I am confused. But I digress. On Little Bourke Street, we came across this masked lady and her little wooden caravan. She invited me to sit down, and handed me an iPod with headphones. Madeleine slept. Around me, the hustle and crowds of Chinatown softly receded. Instead, there was music. And a little girl's voice.
"I am eight," she said. "In 20 years, I will be the same age as the lady you met here." The little girl went on to dream about what her 28-year-old self would be like. What she would do. Who she would be.
The masked lady held Madeleine's pram for me while I crawled inside the caravan.
Inside was a typewriter, and a lot of white. White walls, white paper, and a ceiling adorned with white detritus. Little scraps of white paper covered the white walls, and on each of them was a message. A wish, an instruction, a question. There were no fortune cookies, but there were plenty of fortunes.
The little girl still spoke in my ear. What would I tell my self of 20 years in the future, she asked me, if I could? She invited me to use the typewriter to write a message for future me, and pin it to the wall with all the others.
Many had been there before me.
Outside, Madeleine dreamed on. The masked lady greeted a friend. Chinatown hurried past. I tried to think about what I would tell future me. I considered and rejected all kinds of semi-profound ideas. But in the end, it came down to this:
"Don't forget to laugh, love."
Because sometimes, I need to have a sense of humour about life. I hope my future self holds on to that. And because I always want to remember to actively love, never to take those I love the most - and who love me the most - for granted.
Then Madeleine woke up so I crawled out of the caravan, handed the ghostly voice of the eight-year-old girl back to the masked lady, and re-entered the present.
UPDATE: the masked lady gave me a tiny white scroll as I left, with more information about this project, but I managed to lose it before I even opened it! But after some extensive Internet searching (with a host of strange keywords - I got there in the end via "future caravan melbourne art"), I found the source.