I was talking with my daughter this afternoon. We were in the car, on our way home from work. We shared stories of classroom antics, talked about our colleagues, our students, our upcoming professional development days.
As we chatted, we started to talk about her childhood. We were laughing, loud and hard, as she recounted her memories of recess in the fourth grade. As a fourth grade teacher now herself, she was absolutely shaking with hilarity when she remembered that every day at recess she and her best friends would crouch under the darkest, scariest part of the playground structure so they could “talk to the dead.”
She remembered that her favorite game at the time was “light as a feather, stiff as a board”. They would try to put one child into a trance as the others attempted to reach the spirits beyond. “Can you imagine?”, she kept laughing, “I would freak out if my kids were doing that!” We chuckled and clucked and thought about how funny our childhood memories can be.
Then Kate began to remember earlier and earlier moments, moving from verbal memories to those that were more sensory. She remembered playing with Grampa when she was probably no more than two. She remembered the little house that we had rented for a few years when she was very small.
And those memories triggered one of my own, and I had to share it with her.
“Kate, it was a perfect moment”, I told her. It was a warm early summer day. She and I had been outside all afternoon, digging in the backyard, working to reclaim an overgrown, unkempt garden from the weeds that had come to dominate it. I remember digging with a trowel, pulling out grass and dandilions to uncover the shoots of irises and coneflower and daisies. The afternoon had passed with my little girl at my side, learning to see the beauty in the wildness.
We had gone inside and I had put her into a warm bubble bath. I remember that I had wrapped her in a towel and rubbed her dry. I had put her soft brown hair into two tiny ponytails and dressed her in the prettiest white nightgown. The sun was setting, the air was warm and sweet with early summer smells. We were waiting for Daddy to come home, and my beautiful barefoot girl was rocking in her little wooden rocker. She was singing, “In the Good Old Summertime”, and she was giggling. I sat across from her, barefoot myself, and smiling. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her face. I simply could not believe that anyone on earth could be as beautiful, as perfect, as radiant as she was.
I remember the feel of the air that evening. I remember the smell of magnolias from the tree outside of our house. I remember the creak of the wooden rocker on the porch floor. Mostly, though, I remember how my little girl looked with the light of the setting sun on her face. I remember the husky sound of her voice and the sweet smell of her skin. I remember, as distinctly and clearly as if it had happened this morning, how it felt to be me right then, living and seeing and saving a perfect, perfect moment.