IMG_0582.2015-04-28_140937I awakened and realized that it was my eighty-third birthday. Wow! How did I get that old? Where did the years go? Why don’t I feel any different in my mind than I did when I was twenty or thirty or sixty? My body certainly felt the years with it’s various aches and pains, but my mind was filled with memories that rose to the surface in little snippets from time to time and in no chronological order. I try to put them in their proper places, but they refused to go. It is a puzzle but not one that I could put together in a million years.
I thought of a birthday party that Momma had given me when I was twelve. I had begged and pleaded with Daddy to leave our Christmas tree up for the party and he had. I could see the needles falling off the tree and my friends in awe because I had a tree up. Momma had decorated our dining room with crepe paper and our house looked like a princess lived there and I thought I was one.
I thought about our neighbor, Mr Wood, and recalled how he would fall asleep with a cigarette in his hand and at least once a week or so, would start a fire in his mattress. The fire department would come, put it out and throw his mattress out in the street. I got a little frightened even thinking about it. I also remembered how Momma and I looked out the window one day as Mr Wood chased his chickens who had flown over our fence. He would reach for one who would fly out of his hands and he would land in a pile on the ground. This happened over and over. I don’t know why Momma and I found this so amusing, but I recall our laughter as it rang through out our house.
I can hear my Momma’s sweet Southern voice reading to us as we lay on the foot of our beds.
Out of the corner of my brain, I recall one day when we were at the beach looking in the distorted mirrors at the pier. We laughed so hard that we wound up sitting on the floor of the pier doubled over.
I can see my Daddy’s strong hands and his quiet little smile that he produced after he had painted a masterpiece. I see that same smile in my sister when she is pleased with her art work.
The Kaleidoscope in my brain shifts and I’m a nursing student taking care of the first patient that I became invested in. Jack was a sixteen year old boy who had severed his spinal cord in a accident at the beach when he dove off of a post. He was on a stryker frame and for some reason, only trusted me and another nurse to care for him. My whole heart and soul fought for that boy’s life, and I was crushed when he died.
Another piece of the memory bank falls out and I remember the birth of our first child. It was a miracle of love. I can see my husband’s face as he looked at our baby daughter with a love that I had never seen before. I think of that wonderful daughter now and what a great person she has become.
Another snippet appears, and my sister and I are riding in my cousin Jerome’s goat cart that he got for Christmas. I remember that I was glad that it was his present, not mine.
Our family is on the train, going to St George, S.C. to see our grandparents. I loved being there with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. I can hear the laughter pealing through the house. I can smell my Mama’s lemon pie.
I recall one summer at my grandparents, Momma, my sister and I went with my Aunt Pearl to the cemetery. She had a little Ford coupe with one seat, so they put a big stick to hold up the trunk and my sister and I rode back there. Along that country road, it began to rain, not just an ordinary rain, but little frogs fell from the sky. It was both amazing and gross at the same time. All those little frogs bouncing off the old dirt road that we were on. Later in life, I read where the eggs could be lifted up into the clouds and when it rained, they would hatch and the frogs would come down with the rain.
The mind is a funny thing. It doesn’t go where you want it too. It has a path all of its own. I think of all the trips my husband and I made back and forth to Charleston and how I felt so at home as soon as I saw the palmetto trees and the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. I smell the pluff mud and feel the mist of the ocean on my face. The humidity reminds me that I am home once again. I try to remember details about those trips, but the mind says no. It gives up only what it wants to no matter how hard I try to force it to show me what I want to see.
I laugh as I think about my son jumping off the high diving board when he was three, feeling my anxiety but knowing that his Dad will catch him and keep him safe.
I remember the time when he left for Bolivia as an Exchange Sudent. He was filled with joy and I was filled with anxiety. I think about the overwhelming sense of pride when I saw him receive his diploma at the US Air Force Academy.
I have felt safe all of my life. I felt it with my Daddy and then with my husband, two great men who made sure that I didn’t have to worry about things that bump into the night.
My brain conjures up the sound of my youngest son laughing his deep belly laugh that was unmistakably his. I see my middle son going down the hill on the sled landing with the edge on two trees and he being thrown between them. I suddenly become anxious as I had no control over the situation, but God had kept him safe.
Ginny Girl, our red cocker spaniel, is barking to get in the door. I see her following our children all over the neighborhood or sitting on our front stoop. She was loyal to the bone.
I hear my Father-in-law answering the door saying, “We don’t want any” and my Mother-in-law saying, “Hidy Darling.” Their voices are forever etched within the portals of my mind.
I remember watching the first man walk on the moon and the assassination of John F. Kennedy on television.
I recall the pain when we left our house in Nashville to start a new adventure in Louisville, Kentucky. I see the tears stream down the faces of my two oldest children as they wave good-bye to their friends. It brings a lump into my throat.
I look back with pride as I think about my youngest son’s Eagle Scout Ceremony and later his graduation from the US Coast Guard Academy.
Life is a journey, one filled with laughter and pain. The one constant that we have is that God is always with us. Memories of all the churches that we attended roll into one. Maybe that is because it is our safe place, our place to meet friends and to ask for strength to carry on in a new place. God comes into my mind with every memory that I have, His love, His strength, His help, His open arms.
I think lastly of the day my husband left us. I think of that day also of a day that God blessed me so richly with friends, family and His love. He did not leave me alone. He made me feel safe and loved.
My brain will continue to spill out all these memories of times gone by when I least expect it. I try to write them down for my children and grandchildren and those that come after them so that they might know what a loving family from whence they came. It always brings a smile to my face because it is about the journey and how I lived my life. My eight year old great grandson explained to me how the brain works. He said that you learn so much knowledge that finally the brain has to let some of it out and that’s where the memories come in. Some will escape and leave you forever and the ones you retain are just waiting to get out. I think he just might have something there as I notice mine escaping from time to time and then I can’t seem to find them again. My memories are filled with laughter and joy. I have been so blessed and I pray that I have in some small way been a blessing to others. That’s what it is like being eighty-three.


  1. Pingback: MEMORIES FROM THE AGES OF MY MIND | anticsbyannie

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