Tuesday, August 31, 2010

{Thirty-Three} A Remembered Life

“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.

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
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?

I have.

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.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

19 fellow travelers shared:

Erin said...

What beautiful birthday memories! Happy Day :)

Andrea said...

oh! I am mesmorized by your words.
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday sweet Elise!
Happy Birthday to you!

Elizabeth Foss said...

It's 8:36 on the east coast. I made it to 8:36 without crying today:-) I'm so glad for your happy birthday memories. So glad for the chance to walk the day with you. So glad to know that there is another woman counting blessings, holding each moment up to the Light. Keep living that way. You won't ever regret the moments invested in gratitude. Gob bless you with a beautiful year! And thank you.

Stacy said...

Dearest Elise~

Happy Birthday, friend!
I loved reading these words of your birthday-day!

Love to you...

Linda said...

Happy Birthday sweet girl! It is hard not to weep when reading your beautiful heart. Yes, yes - treasure these moments and keep them with your words. Hold them close, for they tend to slip through our fingers unnoticed if we don't.
I am blessed by you - always.

Stacy said...

(Oh. I forgot to say that I have given much thought to Laura's words, too- and how richly descriptive they are. I remember when we read about that, too- and how we described to Ella what that must have been like for Laura, and Mary... and had Isaac close his eyes for awhile one day while Ella described all that she saw to him. She loved that. :))

linda said...

Happy B.day!
And thank you for the fine gift of this wonderful post.

Sheila @ Dodging Raindrops said...

Happy Birthday!

Oh to be 33 again. :)

Carrie said...

Happy Birthday dear friend! Praying that this next year is full of His blessings...


Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

I like your thoughts @ Laura...I've always noticed it, too, and wondered. But I always figured some of it was a retrospective, things she noticed in adulthood that also applied to childhood.

Happy b-day.

Kathi @ A Mother's Prayers said...

Happy Birthday Elise! Do you share your Happy Day with Tasha Tudor?

I can remember reading Farmer Boy to the kids last year, thinking, "Gracious she can paint a picture with words so well, I can smell the food..." And then we learned the WHY too, when we were reading Silver Lake. Makes me thankful, for stories like these, to share and Show my Children a Better, Meaningful, FAMILY Way.

The necklace is beautiful, the hens are cheery, and the shoes would have been so-like-me...and the Music...would've had all of us Dancing too...esp my Connor!


Anna said...

Happy birthday, Elise :)

Thank you for helping us all to take notice of our days, whether they be *special* ones (like your birthday was!) or just the ordinary messy ones.

~ Anna

tara said...

happy birthday to you ... i liked 33.

Stacey said...

Happy Birthday, dearest! Happy Birthday! So blessed for your presence here! Much love to you!

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

Happy birthday, Elise - and so happy... this is wonderful - you really are so full!

Sheri said...

This was beautiful and precious! I felt like I was part of your day and am thankful to hear how blessed your birthday was! Oh, our Father is so good. The simple things truly are "the gift."

Toyin O. said...

Happy Birthday! The best is yet to come. I will be turning 33 in December too.


Christine said...

Happy Birthday!!!! It sounds so special- a day full of love, family and friends. Love you!

CB said...

Happy Birthday Elise,
I never comment on your blog, but look at it often and am blessed each time I do.
God bless you and your sweet family.

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