The grasses were all around, towering above me like trees. They waved gently in the breeze, greeting me as their friend. The autumnal sun had rendered them golden, had made every part of the scene glow with warmth. While I cannot picture him, I know my dad was there. We were fishing together in some small, peaceful body of water, and I felt small in the best way.
Then, the quietness was interrupted with a crescendo of noise, and I looked up to see a flock of geese bursting into my vision, flapping their wings against the blushing sky. It was a moment of wonder, and I can still picture it, them flying through the frame of the grasses, everything illuminated with that ethereal light.
I held onto that memory for most of my life as a sacred secret. I feared that perhaps it had been a construct of my young mind. After all, I couldn’t recall any stories about it, I had no evidence of it occurring. But the image was so vivid, the feelings of delight and awe and safety so comforting, the moment itself so breathtaking, so spiritual, that the thought of it being a fiction devastated me.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I timidly asked my mom if Dad would have even taken me fishing when I was really young. She said that yes, he did sometimes take me fishing in the creek near the small home we rented when I was between the ages of 2 and 4 years. After a few follow up questions, I breathed a sigh of relief and determined that the memory must be real.
This week, a flock of geese has been taking up residence in our neighbor’s field. Yesterday, we watched them wander around as if they owned the place, digging into the damp earth eagerly. It was all together a gorgeous afternoon, especially after a damp and humid week. The clouds were pillowing over the sky, and it was the perfect temperature. Friends were over, and the children were happily playing in the leaves our oak had strewn for them. When we threw some into the fire I had started, the smell of the smoke evoked the essence of fall. We ate butternut squash soup and fresh baked biscuits on the deck. We watched leaves dance to the ground, and laughed together.
It occurred to me later, that this is the stuff that memories are made of.
I look at Levi and wonder what his first memories will be. Perhaps they will be of snuggling with Daddy in a home-made fort, of catching ghost crabs with my parents by the ocean in blackest night. Perhaps they will be of cooking beside me in the kitchen, of tractor rides down the road with Pop. Perhaps they will be of laughing with his sister or romping around with cousins or adventuring with the neighbors. They will, inevitably, be linked with a song or a smell or an image.
But whatever they are, I hope his first memories include that precious realization of what it feels like to be alive. I hope they are linked with feelings of joy, wonder, safety, delight, and love. I hope that they are sacred secrets he will treasure all of his life and that he will be reminded of them often, as I am when I hear the cries of geese overhead.