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. This is one of the most beautiful and touching pieces of writing I have ever read. You have captured not only the essence of childhood, but a sense of beauty – deep meaningful beauty that one not only sees but feels in the compass of the soul. I think if you were to write a book about childhood memories, it would become a bestseller, and likely get turned into a movie as well. You have a style of reading that I have read in a few stories over the years – stories that pull you into them as if you are experiencing them yourself. This brought back so many of my childhood memories as well, though I have never lived outside of the western United States, mostly in the Southwest as a child, and now in Southern California. Thank you for this beautiful writing, and please don’t stop writing. You have a strong talent and I can definitely see your artist soul in it. I am an artist too, so I can definitely relate.

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    1. Thank you so much Anne. That’s the name of my favorite childhood heroine. You can probably guess who she is. I’m so happy it found a connection with you and I am considering writing a book. Others have suggested the same thing. My blog started as a way of plugging my art but it has morphed into something else. I don’t even know how to classify it.

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      1. Anne of Green Gables is the name of my favorite heroine too, though I did not discover her until I was grown up. It is probably good because I was ready to accept that there can be heroines as well as heroes in this world by then. No need to classify your art. Look at what my blog says in the description by the header. That is all that is necessary. It is a beautiful journey into a sacred world full of pain and anguish, and yet at the same time, it does not leave us feeling helpless or hopeless. It is full of something that reaches far beyond that. Great work. Keep it up and do what is right for your soul, but you do have the makings of a best seller book. Anne always

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  2. Very beautifully written, as is the magic of the lights above. As I mentioned to another blogger, I would love to see their magic too, to behold something so amazing would I think bring my heart to a standstill and allow it to be free, if but for a moment of realisation that we are all on this wonderful planet to share in its beauty ❤

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    1. Thank you so much. There will be some posts that don’t paint me in the best of colors and they’ll be hard to write but I feel I have to be honest about my failings as much as my triumphs.

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  3. What a pleasure to discover your blog this morning, Dale. First, you conjured memories of the wonderful summers of my childhood in Michigan–warm nights staying outside to play hide-and-seek, Red-Light-Green light, Mother May I, tag, and other games with the neighborhood kids. Your writing is fresh and vivid, strong enough to be published or submitted to essay contests. Contact me, if you’d like more direction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Evelyn. I forgot about Mother May I. What a fun game. I have looked into some writing contests but the caveat seems to be that the writing can’t have been published and they consider a blog to be online publishing. And I get stage fright when I’m writing specifically for contests, the writing is stiff somehow.

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  4. What a lovely piece. This one made my eyes mist. Being a mother myself, I am most touched by your remembrance of your mother. Somehow, I see myself in her. I wonder how my children perceive me as a mother. Your adult realization gives me hope. On the other hand, I am also the daughter who only understands her mother in her adulthood.

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  5. Thanks for visiting my blog – it made me desire to take a peek at yours.

    As an aspiring writer, I relished your creative imagery used in this post. I especially liked this one: “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.” It made me think about what may be in my own “box near my heart.”

    Lovely, lovely writing.

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  6. The moment when you see something you have seen a thousand times through the eyes of your children… Your memories are bittersweet and beautifully written. Keep on keeping on

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  7. This is beautiful. I am awed and inspired at how you have managed to weave a web of pure poetry out of such difficult times, picking out the bright parts and focusing more on them.
    Really, respect ❤
    In turn this has made me reconsider the way I look at my own life, and I'm very grateful for that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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