“In the north-west sky there was a cloud. It was small in the enormous, brassy sky. But it was a cloud, and it made a streak of shade on the prairie. The shadow seemed to move, but perhaps that was only the heat waves. No, it really was coming nearer.Have you ever wondered, as you read her vivid descriptions of food and weather and clothing, just how Laura Ingalls Wilder remembered her childhood so crisply? How she could describe an autumn table so sumptuous that it leaves us with growling tummies? How a dress is described so perfectly, down to the length of stitches, that we can almost feel the softness and see the hues of the fabric?
It grew larger. It was a thick, dark streak in the air above the prairie. Its edge rolled and swelled in big puffs. Now gusts of cool air came, mixed with gusts hotter than ever.”
~On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
But when we reached Silver Lake years ago, I finally understood.
When Mary was blinded by fever, Laura became her eyes. She wove a tapestry of words through the darkness of Mary's world, and in so doing, the world around Laura took on a sharpness, a clarity. I imagine that even sounds became poetry to Laura, for her words to Mary evoked such love for her surroundings. She memory-painted and Mary saw with heart-eyes.
A narrative life is a remembered life.
Today, I turned thirty-three. Tonight, I realized that I hadn't even picked up the camera until evening fell.
But I remember.
Fluffy scrambled eggs, as only Husband can make, filling a china cup. Sliced zucchini bread and fresh coffee with sugar just so and cream swirled in. Arms full of hugs and mouths full of kisses, little ones piling my lap with homemade cards and love-words. Resting back on the pillows, my eyes filling with tears. Overflowing.
A mama-necklace, brass and pearl, resting around my neck, the weight of it reminding me of these days of grace. A surprise birthday gift, this, for I already received my running shoes a month ago... but his smile says, I told you yes, the shoes could be your birthday gift. Just not the only one!
"Blessing" hens from beloved parents and siblings, colors bright and cheerful, fabric swirly and sequins shiny and bell tinkling, finding their new name and home on the brick-dust wall of the dining room. How Little Man reaches up and pulls, tearing hens away from the tasseled hanger, and we cry together at the broken gift, Eliana rubbing our backs and murmuring platitudes. And how I find a way to tie it all together again, minus a perky yellow hen, and we all sigh with relief as it goes back to it's home, this time a little higher. And I'm thinking of Elizabeth and goodbye and knowing, just absolutely knowing that I will remember this with a smile someday, the broken pieces long forgotten, the Little Man hands becoming Big Man hands, too big to hold mine anymore. I want a remembered life.
How we're frosting birthday cake, she and I, her smile spreading wide and her cheeks suspiciously streaked with sticky white- she thinks I won't notice! - and my hands are so full of spatula and bowl and I'm twisting sideways and stretching over her head to spread the cream-cheese goodness where she can see, and learn how, though I can hardly reach in the process. And even then, I'm noticing the moment and wishing for the camera one second and thankful for it's absence the next. I'll paint it with memory words instead. There is no room for cameras here. My heart is too full.
I wipe down countertops, brushing the ginger carrot cake crumbs into my hand, wincing at the music Husband has chosen while he washes the dishes. And Little Man wants to dance cause Sissy is twirling and so I toss dishrag and Husband and I, we grab hands and turn the volume up and dance, too. And the windows are flung wide for the very un-August-like air so the neighborhood is listening and Little Man practices jumping and Eliana never stops twirling and Tobymac sings, Hey, devil, go on, get your junk out of here! And we're laughing and gasping and it's all just so Life. Click.
Birthday fondue with the dearest of friends, we're smiling across the table at each other, and children are tucked away and crisp air is filtering in between the slats of blinds, late sunshine falling long across the carpet. Prayer and a toast, gifts and laughter, and when cheesecake crumbs are in the bottom of the wine glasses and melted chocolate dribbles across the table, we're yawning and saying goodbye and day is done.
Today I turned thirty-three. That's the big event. But the hundreds of other tiny little moments? Those are the ones I want to remember.
The ugly, the beautiful. Morning breath on my lips, tears on my nightgown. Unconditional love abounding. Poor, detached, forlorn yellow hen, no longer perky. Hearts knit closer together through tears and forgiveness. Cream cheese frosting streaked cheeks. And counters. And fingers... Training little girl fingers to be wife and mama fingers, spreading and serving and scrubbing. Raucous music that jars my bones. Gasping, laughing, dancing... together.
The days weave a tapestry of Story and breathe life into darkness and I narrate and memorize and memory-paint...
Altogether, it's one of the sweetest stories I will ever tell.