A long time ago I taught a genealogy class that focused on writing personal histories. I remember advising the various classes I taught to write about those little memories that keep coming to mind , not just the big, significant events. It's important to include in a personal history facts such as when you were born, baptized, married, schools attended, etc., but it's also important to include memories of smaller events and occasions. If a memory keeps rising to the surface, even if it seems unimportant, there's a reason and it should be written down. Last night I had trouble falling asleep and half forgotten memories of some of those long ago minor happenings kept playing through my mind. Today I'm writing them down.
Mama had a black box camera and because developing film was expensive, she didn't use it a lot. But I remember one occasion when she lined up me, my sisters, and a little brother beside the house to take our picture. It took too long and I wet my pants. It was a tragedy then, but I laugh every time I see that picture now.
The farmer who lived on one farm before we did, raised radish seed. My older sister and I found radishes growing along the ditches, in the hay field, and in other unexpected places that spring. Our play house, mud pies, and even the dinner table was well supplied with radishes. I'm not sure why I think of those radishes at odd times all these years later, but perhaps it's a reminder that seeds scattered to the wind will grow in unexpected places.
My older brothers teased me a lot and one day one of them pinned me to a clothesline. I was stuck until Mama noticed and came to my rescue.
Colleen, my cousin, and I were crazy about horses. Riding double on Flicka one day, we had a difference of opinion with the horse when she decided to evade a flock of sheep being herded through the barnyard by going inside the milk parlor. A low hanging wire over the door that separated the milk parlor from the main part of the barn caught us under our chins, scraping us off the horse and onto the cement floor. Colleen was scraped up, but I was knocked unconscious. When I woke up I was in my bed and my cousin and her family had gone home. I didn't even get to tell her it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't insisted on holding the reins and steering the horse!
When I was thirteen I became the owner of a huge Harley Davidson motorcycle. Someone owed my dad money and couldn't pay him, so he gave him the bike as payment. Daddy didn't want the bike, but he knew it was the only payment he would get, and since I was impressed by the huge bike, he said I could have it. I never rode it; I couldn't even stand it up, but it was mine--until we moved again and Daddy left it behind in a shed.
It was the first year my husband and I had a full size Christmas tree instead of a small table top tree. My brother cut the tree on his in-laws' farm. We appreciated the gift, but we didn't have enough ornaments for it and no money to buy any. Thinking I was being practical, I baked sugar cookies and my small daughter helped me decorate them. We hung them on the tree and thought our tree was beautiful. The next day we had to be gone all day and when we returned home we found the tree lying on its side with the cookies smashed beneath it and all over the room. I was never sure if the weight of the cookies toppled the tree or if the cat had something to do with the tipped over tree.
One summer day a Monarch butterfly adopted me. Each time I stepped outside the door the butterfly would land on my arm and stay perched there until I went back inside the house. My children and the neighbor children playing with them were so thrilled they begged me to stay outside, so I took a holiday from cleaning house, writing, and cooking to stay outside and play with the children--me and the butterfly.
My son-in-law, Rich, and I like to fish. Our family had journeyed to a favorite reunion ranch near Challis, Idaho, when one evening the two of us set out for a nearby stream for a little fishing without the kids. We stopped at a bridge and cast in our lines. He had a bite, then I had a bite. Soon we were reeling in trout as fast as we could release and rebait. In twenty minutes or so we caught fourteen fish, most of which we released. (We usually only keep the ones from which we can't remove the hook without injuring the fish.) Those fish barely let our lines hit the water before they bit. It was a fisherman's dream and struck us as funny. We laughed and joked about those fish wanting so badly to be caught we could hardly stand up.
I awoke in a strange bed in a motel room in another state to the whimpering cry of a baby. My exhausted daughter slept through his cries, so I crept out of bed to gather him up from the crib the motel had provided for us. My husband and I and our daughter had been up most of the night before frantically arranging early morning flights to an unfamiliar city to collect the infant our daughter and her military husband had been waiting for for ten long years. Her husband was deployed so it was my husband and I who accompanied our daughter on that momentous trip. I took the baby back to my bed where I cuddled him and fed him a bottle, letting his new mommy sleep. Something happened as I held that baby and watched his little face in the dim light. He became my grandson, not through shared blood, but through an invisible link from my heart to his that I knew was destined to last forever.
Though it's the big occasions that are immortalized in photos and noted on diplomas, certificates, and news clippings, it is the little moments that make up a life. It isn't the names, places, and dates with which we fill in the blanks on forms that sum up who we are as much as it is the memories, the unplanned moments, and the small things that string our days and years together.