Feb. 17 Prompt #2 “Begin with ‘All I have left is this photograph…’”
All I have left from my childhood are these photographs. My memory of the events are clouded by the stories that have been retold. I’m not sure if I actually remember them or if I remember the pictures in my mind I developed to illustrate the narratives I heard.
Memory is a funny thing. It’s not a perfect imprint of the events. Several family members tell the stories differently. Maybe if we all sat together and took turns telling the stories the way we remembered them we could piece together the truth.
At some level I suppose it doesn’t matter. The exact words that were spoken or the precise actions that were taken may not be as important as the way we felt with each other.
The photos can help with that. Looking at the photographs evoke a feeling. Flashes of memory come crashing in. Some stories are told with humor. We laugh now about how I walked home crossing a busy highway while my uncle took a nap. We even laugh about my tricycle adventure around the block and being escorted home by the fire truck.
But sometimes looking at the photos brings tears. Tears not so much about painful memories but sorry over the loss of childhood. The loss of innocence. There are even tears of sorrow over how much joy and pleasure was experienced in that childhood and yet it wasn’t enough. It doesn’t seem to matter now. It wasn’t enough to guarantee happiness for the next generation of children.
The more I think about it, the more I realize it isn’t true. The photographs are not the only thing left from that childhood. The child is still there deep inside, living in an adult body looking for the same things she searched for back then.
Feb. 17 Prompt #1 ” The phone is ringing, you answer and instantly know, this will not be a short conversation”
It was an ordinary day. She wasn’t thinking anything out of the ordinary. The day to day concerns of running the house consumed her. What will we have for lunch? Will I do chores or enjoy the peace and quiet while the baby takes his nap?
Then the phone rings, “Hello” with a distracted smile. “Hi, is this Lisa?” “Yes it is”, still smiling. “This is Matt….Matt Johnson.” Her mind races, the smile disappears. After all these years, why is he calling? she wonders. “How are you?” “Good, good…how about you?” “Ok….”
Breathe Lisa…just relax and breathe. Don’t assume the worst. Maybe he has important news about a mutual friend from college. There must be a logical reason he is calling.
After briefly catching up on the last twenty years, the conversation turns more personal. “I still think about you all the time” he says testing the waters. Even in the confusion and stress of this surprise phone call she knows that is ridiculous. They only dated a few months and the relationship was so shallow, dominated by physical attraction and youthful idealism. “Does your wife know you are calling me?” “No.”
It’s stirring and flattering to know he has been remembering her fondly but the truth….she must cling to the truth. “Well it was great hearing how God has been working in your life all these years, it’s fun reconnecting but if you can’t tell your wife about us talking on the phone I’d prefer you didn’t call me again. My husband and I have been through a lot of hard years. God has mercifully restored and enriched our lives. I won’t do anything to jeopardize our life together.”
For weeks after this call she fought the battle over the truth. Whatever he was going through and thought he felt, it wasn’t love. The past was based on foolish lust. Her prayers for him were that he could see the truth – that life would not be better with another woman, that God could meet him in his troubled marriage and draw him to Himself in a rich new way. And she continued to fight the lies in her mind. To be wanted by another man would not fill her heart.
This is an incomplete rough draft that I want to add to. Old post dated Jan 1, 1010:
“As I wrote that title I realized I’m almost always thinking about family. My immediate family or my extended family or my married into family. Then there are the friends who are so close they feel like family, I sometimes wish they were family and often refer to them as family in the spiritual sense. Especially the girls….they are the sisters I never had but always wanted.
I’ve been looking through photo albums of family and friends. I’m working on my assignment for this week’s Painting the Heart group (another name for our art therapy group). I decided to start scanning some more of our precious photos before they disenegrate. I picked one photo that is framed and out of the way. I keep it on the top of a book case in the hall near the guest room. It’s a photo of me as a very young baby, maybe 4 or 5 months old (I need to ask my mom if she remembers the date).” to be continued but I don’t remember where I was going with this train of thought.
Continued Feb 15, 2010:
Our 25 yr old daughter sent me this link today: http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2010/02/tears_at_ga-gas/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+pioneerwoman-full-rss-feed+(Pioneer+Woman+FULL+RSS+FEED)&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher
It’s a great article with photos of a Grandmother’s home and the memories there.
It reminded me of a writing assignment our daughter wrote while still in college. It was about the house I spent the last 11 years of my childhood in before I got married. Her grandparents house – the house she spent the 3rd and 4th week of her life while my mom helped me get established in motherhood and continued to visit several times a year until they downsized and moved into a retirement community about 10 years ago.
It’s funny how we are always trying to improve the houses we live in. How we laugh at the older generation’s choice of carpet or appliance colors. And yet in the last days of our Grandparent’s lives (and after they are gone) it’s the familiarity and the memories held in those garish colored carpets and appliances that warm us.
I’m thankful for my family. But I live in the shadow of both the blessings and curses unique to my family’s particular story (as we all do). On any given day I’m tempted to see only the bad or only the good. Not only are both realities evident, it’s getting harder for me to tell which family traditions to embrace and which one’s to drop. I say that as though it’s just a matter of knowing then doing. After 28 years of marriage I still refer back to the story in the first 21 years of my life as the context for why I am ‘the way I am’. And now my children are old enough to begin to do the same. I will continue to think about the particular family I was placed in and the impact that is making on the family I now participate in making. ‘Living out the life that I’ve been given…’ as Amy Grant sang not too long ago……
Some of my favorite quotes:
“I’ve studied and maybe learned how things are, but I’m not even close to why they are. And you must not expect to find that people understand what they do. So many things are done instinctively,..”
“At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?”
“Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced in, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water?” (This reminds me of Gollum in Lord of the Rings)
“The church and the whorehouse arrived in the Far West simultaneously. And each would have been horrified to think it was a different facet of the same thing. But surely they were both intended to accomplish the same thing: the singing, the devotion, the poetry of the churches took a man out of his bleakness for a time, and so did the brothels.”
“…It is a beauty – a dreadful kind of beauty…”
“…I wonder whether you ever felt that something invisible is all around you….”
“(___) was not beautiful. Perhaps she wasn’t even pretty, but she had the glow that makes men follow a woman in the hope of reflecting a little of it…..(___) did not simply throw up her hands and give up. It was much worse than that. She went right on doing and being what she was – without the glow. The people who loved her ached for her, seeing her try, and they got trying for her. (___)’s friends were good and loyal but they were human, and humans love to feel good and they hate to feel bad….It is easy to find a logical and virtuous reason for not doing what you don’t want to do…..And the women who had thought they wanted dresses never realized that what they had wanted was happiness….”
“Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.”
“And once a boy has suffered rejection, he will find rejection even where it does not exist – or, worst, will draw it forth from people simply by expecting it.”