The Brightness of Remembered Love

The story opens with a little girl about 9 years old running out of her house to play hide and seek. The little girl was me, of course. Of all the memories I have in my collection, I keep the cherished ones in a jewel encrusted, hand carved wooden box that sits just up and to the left of my heart. My children’s birth, my marriage, my Father’s death. All of these are contained within that small box. I only open it on special occasions to shake off layers of dust and admire again, the brightness of remembered love.

This is one of those memories.

Playing hide and seek may sound a little mundane but it wasn’t. All together, there were about 50 kids who ran around the subsidized housing complex that summer. And we all played the game. During the day we kept to our own small group of friends. But when night fell, we returned to our roots, crawling out of the primordial soup on wobbly legs, learning to walk, splitting into species, gaining the power of thought, dancing raucously around a fire, eating roast beast, painting our bodies, and running around naked under the stars. Well, maybe not that so much, but we did play hide and seek.

It was curious that we all played together at night when we didn’t during the day. After nightfall, any child was welcome to the game. The big kids, big enough to smoke cigarettes and steal from their parent’s liquor cabinet. And young kids, young enough to need someone to hold their hands when they crossed the street. A truce fell over the legions of the young on those nights. Youthful energy came together in a frenzy when darkness wrapped its wings over the sky.

And I was a master of the game. Somehow, I knew instinctively that if I turned my eyes away from my captor, they wouldn’t see me. I knew that looking at them would draw their eyes to me so I kept my eyes trained at the ground and froze my body like I was fixed in death. Stillness came to me out of some glimmer of innate knowledge that I didn’t understand. Most nights, I was the last one hiding. The big kids didn’t know my name but they called me “that girl.” As in “Did you see where that girl went?” And I might be only a few feet away from them but they couldn’t find me. I was a ninja in a child’s game, a game that did nothing to further the cause of humanity but brought us all together under the stars.

One memorable night, a night that I keep in that little wooden box next to my heart, I saw those glorious northern lights. I was crouched beside a wooden fence, the one that separated Mrs. Lee’s house from the strip mall parking lot. And I happened to look up and notice the lights. Anyone who has ever seen them will never will never forget their splendor. Looking up, sky black as coal, colors streaming across the heavens like the fine silk hair of a Goddess draped over the cosmos and crackling like twigs on a fire.

I sat by the fence and noticed that the shouting of the game had stopped.

Around the side of the house, I saw everyone abandoning their hiding places. We stood in the street with our heads held back, looking up at the sky. We watched the lights streak across the stars. The hide and seek game was finished for the night and we all knew it, and none of us cared.

“Mum. Mum. Come see the lights.” I shouted to her when the northern lights were so brilliant that even the most boorish of the bullies had to stop and admire them.

“I’ve seen northern lights before.” Her voice tired, annoyed. But we’re from the Yukon so I imagine that was true. I had probably seen them as well though I didn’t remember.

“No Mum, come see.” I insisted.

She came to the door, warm light glowing from the inside like a lantern. She walked outside without looking down, her eyes trained on the sky like mine. She let go of the door absently and it squealed shut. And I saw the look of astonishment on her face and I smiled. She wasn’t a cheerful woman when we were young, often tired, often angry, often bitter. But on that night she shared something with me that was only communicated with a look. We smiled at each other and I felt like I gave her the most precious of gifts. Like I had magicked up the lights just for her, just to give her a break in her narrow life.

I remember thinking it was odd on those summer nights that my mother let us play so late into the night. And I’m surprised to realize, with adult clarity, that it was a moment of kindness. I can imagine the ghost of my mother wandering to the door to call us in on a warm July night. But when she saw us playing with all the kids in the neighborhood, she let us continue. Sometimes the games went on until past midnight. And she was happy to let us play. I wasn’t grateful then, but I look back now and see that I should have been.

I took this memory of my youth and many others and slipped them into that box near my heart as if I knew, even as a child, that I would need them. I collected them as people collect salt and pepper shakers or commemorative spoons. I carry my collection inside of me because one day I will no longer be here. And I don’t want to feel like my journey will disappear into the air like smoke although that’s exactly what will happen.

That night with the lights, I belonged to everyone else as much as they belonged to me. All of us, tiny dots on the surface of a rock flying through the chasm of space, an almost invisible streak over the black that means nothing to any force in the universe save us. At that moment, we were one. We were happy to be insignificant, to be the small ants on an anthill together. All the tiny ways we try to best one another, try to exert our independence, argue, bicker, fighting our way to the top to some unknown end. This all disappeared under the lights. We weren’t adversaries anymore. We were all just creatures standing together and it lasted as long as the lights glowed. And it lasted the span of my life. The next day the bullies would be bullies again, the fraidy-cats would be fraidy-cats. We would all resume our place on the totem pole of child seniority. My mother would once again be a tired, angry woman with four ungrateful children. But on that summer night, we each wore one another’s skin and felt the warm trickle of companionship that takes away our differences.

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174 thoughts on “The Brightness of Remembered Love

  1. That is a wonderful memory to tuck away! There is a Judeo-Christian concept of heaven storing our tears in bottles and of our prayers circulating in God’s throne room as incense. If those things have a life outside our frailty, surely our moments of joy do, too. I hope so, at least.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. You don’t post often but it’s worth the wait I guess! Loved the description and the small details, I’m familiar with many pictures you draw beautifully like the hide and seek details, the tired and bitter mom and others…
    I could feel this warm trickle of companionship that took away the differences
    The good thing is that they will always be in that box near your heart and you can always relive this beautiful nostalgic feeling
    Thank you for sharing 😊

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Huguette. I don’t post often because I find writing about these things exhausting but I’m aiming for once a week now that I’ve settled into my new home. And you’re right, my journey can always be relived through that little box of memories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply 😊 yes sure I understand what you mean
        Glad you settled in your new home so looking forward to reading your post once a week which is fair enough 👍😊
        Have a great time

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a beautiful memory and post. My mum was a difficult woman, alcoholic and mentally ill. Despite that I will always remember when we moved her into a senior house close to ours. She looked out the window at the cattle in the field and there was joy on her face.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That is poignant. That’s why I write these. I want people to feel less alone. Finding ourselves happy for someone who wasn’t always kind to us is one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. Thanks so much for sharing.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It is rare that I meet someone with a somewhat similar experience. Hallmark has made mothers perfect. Every Mother’s Day I would hunt out a card that just said she was special (but not perfect). She loved it and I felt I told the truth. Life is so complicated…

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Another fantastic post. Again, I relate! Wasn’t it wonderful running around on those hot summer nights playing hide and seek. You just brought back such a flood of happy memories I haven’t reflected on in many years so huge thank-you for that. When did we stop playing outside in the dusk and dark? You are a gift to your readers (fans) I hope you have a great Easter weekend. I’ll touch base after holiday and maybe we can try again to get together.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Great! Definitely not safe these days or at least not in the city. We were living in a small town on Vancouver Island when we raised the kids so they got lucky – it was like a time warp. I remember one time we were playing hide and seek and we climbed into a clump of shrubs in one backyard and discovered we were sharing the space with a porcupine – total screaming freak out.l We were lucky we didn’t get covered in quills!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I too was one of those neighborhood kids who got to play after dark. We lived on a seldom traveled wide street in a suburb and one of our favorite games was kick the can right in the middle of that street. It was a playground made just for us. We also did hide and seek, but I always got found…I also have no idea why so many parents on our street let their kids play in the dark, but it was certainly fun and a great memory–if not as exciting as seeing northern lights! That would be hard to do in southern California!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It does seem strange to play late into the night. I can’t imagine it happening today with all the social media and phones that keep us so disconnected. If I had an I-pad, I probably wouldn’t have gone outside either and I would have missed out.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a beautifully touching story. It is as if the universe gathered you to be awed by her performance. You wrote with such detail and love. What a wonderful moment to share with your mum and the neighborhood.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Absolutely stunning as always! Thank you for bringing back memories that I had forgotten. Those warm, summer nights of our youth seem so foreign now. All ages, all types of kids coming together to “play” a pick up game of baseball, freeze-tag, hide and seek. Older teens, younger kids, it didn’t matter. We would play so late into the night while our parents often sat on porches drinking iced tea – I’m from the southern US – and we kids just ran until literally we fell down, unable to move. It was such a glorious, care-free time.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It was. There were times I saw my mother standing at the door and thought she’d call us in but she didn’t. She just stood and watched us. So nice to have that freedom. I lived in North Carolina for 6 years so I know how nice it was to sit on the porch with that sweet tea. Nice to connect here with you.

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      1. Dale, you are a excellent writer. That’s why we connect with you—even those who survived a happy childhood! It’s the mark of an excellent writer that your story, in reality so very different, feels like our story.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oooh, simply glorious. This is such a strong opening: “Of all the memories I have in my collection, I keep the cherished ones in a jewel encrusted, hand carved wooden box that sits just up and to the left of my heart.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As a child I spent summers on an air force base in Southern California where it was too hot to play during the day and so at night we all poured from our houses and played various games with each other. As you remember, there were no cliques.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. My relationship with my Dad wasnt too good either. But I can remember some of the good too. No matter what, he always tried to get money to take us to Disney World. He wanted me to have an awesome vacation at least.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think one of the hardest things we do, other than watch our children grow away from us and letting them go, is to forgive our parents for not being perfect and forgive ourselves for the same thing.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Andrea. It seems like people everywhere are connecting with the playing games at night. Probably an older generation like me who grew up without social media. It was a special night. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I too saw the northern light in sky now while reading this holding your hand. Feels like me and you little girls and our mothers standing besides us watching the light with happiness and peace 😊 Very beautiful memory dear 😊❤❤❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Lovely. I remember reading once about tucking memories and special feelings for those who are no longer in your life into a little envelop in your heart. It helped me especially when a relationship had run its course. I didn’t have to eliminate all the good memories, just tuck them in that spot.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Thanks, dear friend, for your beautiful story 🙂
    As I live in the North of Europe, in Finland, here we can see the Northern Light as well, called Aurora Borealis, they are so beautiful that – when I see them – stay motionless with my mouth open and just wonder like a small child.

    Thank you very much 🙂
    Big hugs
    Didi

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, my dear friend – the nature is inviting and really beautiful – soon I am going to make a boat-tour on its beautiful lakes and am going to visit many islands where to camp and be in the middle of the green Finnish nature.
        All the best my friend 🙂
        Didi

        Liked by 1 person

  12. We used to play hide and seek at night during the summer when we were kids. It was a very generous thing for parents to do – I’d forgotten about it until just now, reading your post. I will remind my mother about it and thank her for those experiences.

    Your writing practically sings and is always a joy to read.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow. What a nice thing to say. I’m happy to connect with people who have had similar experiences to mine. I’m always surprised to find how many similarities we have even if we think there are none. Apparently, even children in India had similar experiences. I love it that you have had too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A sincere pleasure of mine. You have a way of telling stories that’s simply mesmerizing. I think every post of yours has moved me deeply. Each so beautifully honest and well written. Have a lovely day.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I find it difficult. I didn’t write for years about my own life because I knew some people would not like it. But as Anne Lamott says, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

      Liked by 1 person

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