She jumped out of bed, not a care in the world. The sun was shining, the sky was a beautiful backdrop for the white cotton ball shaped clouds that polka dotted the blue expanse. She flew to the bathroom, pretended to brush her teeth, pushed her hair out of her face and forced the unruly knap into a barrette. After pulling on her favorite denim shorts and a t shirt that had seen better days, she peered in the mirror only long enough to make sure she had zipped her fly, something she had been teased about more than once at the bus stop. Why did that thing have to be such a bother anyway? But, there was no bus stop for her today, no sirree.
Today was the first day of summer.
She had chanted with the other kids on the bus the day before as they pulled out of the school parking lot, “no more homework, no more books, and no more teacher’s dirty looks.” She meant every word of it. Summer had finally arrived and at the ripe old age of eight, she had not a care in the world.
Now that she was fully dressed, all that was left was to escape her mother’s all seeing eye. Man, that woman never missed a thing. She made a plan to slip into the narrow hallway, slide down the wall until she reached the backdoor and then make her escape. All she had to do was get past momma. And she almost did, were it not for the squeaky metal door alerting everyone that an escape hatch had been opened.
She was summoned to the table for breakfast, grits with a scoop of butter and white bread toast. After the meal she would be expected to start chores, a punishment it seemed to her eight year old mind. Once her work had been inspected, and there was nothing left to be done, she was set free to play to her heart’s content until called in for lunch.
Every little girl’s dream.
As the screen door slapped behind her, those little legs ran as fast as they could away from the single wide to the most glorious place her heart could imagine, the sugarcane field across the street. Rows and rows of tall green stalks beckoning her in to a world that her imagination could get lost in. Not to mention, a free sugary snack anytime she wanted it. The hours she spent pretending were some of the greatest times of summer.
That and playing with the neighbors.
She and the little girl next door would swipe mason jars from their momma’s kitchen and smuggle them outside to catch bumble bees from the giant azalea bush that was more of a tree bush than anything. This proved to be the beginning of an entrepreneur spirit as they would set up a table by the road and set their prize bumble bees in a Mason jar collection on display, feeling sure others would see the value in having a bee in a jar and want to pay for it. Usually their only customer was her daddy, he would drop a quarter on the table, pick up his prized bee in a jar and walk away. Seemingly a satisfied customer. But she always noticed as he got close to the old azalea bush tree thingy, he would open the jar and set the little creature free.
Never mind, she would catch it again later.
As the glorious morning came to an end, she could hear the call from momma to head in for lunch. A bologna sandwich awaited her along with a cup of sweet tea. Today was especially great because momma said she could eat on the porch. What better table than an old creaky staircase, a Tupperware cup of tea, a mayonnaise and bologna on sandwich on white bread all under the canopy of God’s creation. She was in heaven. After lunch she dutifully put her plastic cup by the front door along with her sandwich scraps balled up in a paper towel and headed out again.
This time she headed for the cow pasture next door.
To get there she had to navigate a deep ditch perfect for sliding and climbing. She was up for the challenge. This was the same ditch she and her sisters would climb in to pick black berries. Their motley crew would pick a gallon of the sweet black goodness and then run home for momma to cook the occasional blackberry cobbler; it was a pure and simple delight and especially so when coupled with vanilla ice cream.
Goodness, life was good.
Once she reached the summit of the other side the last obstacle was a barbed wire fence. She had become quite a pro at slipping through the wire without even her t shirt getting snagged by the unforgiving wire thorns. It was something she was quite proud of. It was in these times when her belly was full and the sky was smiling down on her that she would lay on her back with the green grass tickling her cheek and make shapes out of the clouds.
Sometimes she fell asleep on the bed of that green pasture, soaking up the sun and listening for a bellowing cow in the distance. But, sooner or later her fidgety nature, as momma called it, would beckon her to get moving and off she’d sprint to her next adventure.
At the end of each day with a heart full of grand stories to tell of great battles fought in imaginations gone wild, with a happy heart and a sun kissed face, she would lay down and drift off into a restful sleep. And to think, it was only the FIRST day of summer.
Life was REAL good.
These are the days we long for, the ones before the cares of life began to steal in and keep us from waking up early excited about what lie ahead. We want them back. At least the lightheartedness that lived in them. Back when life was simpler, when it didn’t matter what so and so said or how much money we had. Back when our greatest concern was getting done with our chores so we could play.
How do we get back there?
I know there is no physical way to get back to my eight year old heart, but can I get there emotionally and spiritually? Back before I was betrayed for the first time and I still trusted with abandon. When I loved everyone not for any reason other than I wanted too. When a Bible lesson really meant something in my heart and when the Sunday school teacher said to give to the needy, I put my bee in a Mason jar quarter in the offering plate at church.
When did I forget that life is really good and I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders?
How could I forget that Jesus carries my burdens and wants me to have my eight year old heart back for keeps?
I’m searching for meaning in this time of my life and one of the greatest lessons I’ve heard recently has led me to a place of remembering. What made me happy before I raised three beautiful children and suffered great loss? What made my heart leap inside of me before so much life, life and more life happened?
What happened to that girl?
Life is hard, but I don’t think the Lord ever intended us to live it without meaning or joy. Somehow we’ve got to get back to those places in our mind and hearts that made us happy and pull those memories out; look at them under the microscope of our present reality and ask God to show us how to plug the things we once loved in to our today’s.
For me, that means walking in open spaces and noticing the smallest of things, making shapes out of the clouds for a minute and listening for sounds of comfort; like the train that comes bellowing through our small community everyday like clockwork. And, maybe I’ll eat my lunch outside and remember my bologna sandwich with sweet tea.
I’ve had many realizations lately, but this one seems to be repeating itself to me, it’s the simple things that make me smile. The simple things that remind me of my roots, and of my joy.
The simpler the better, I think.
I’m still praying for more memories, more meaning and greater joy.
This is simply the beginning…
“Then God remembered“…Genesis 30:22
“The Helper is the Holy Spirit. The Father will send Him in My place. He will teach you everything and help you remember everything I have told you.” John 14:26