Someone asked me a question earlier this evening that prompted this, my first post in months. The question:
‘WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY?’
I had an amazing childhood. I had a backyard full of madness – dogs, raccoons, a tire swing, a trampoline, bb guns, a go-cart, a garden, little popup pools in the summer and a ‘clubhouse’ on stilts. All the kids in the neighborhood flocked to our house. Kids weren’t allowed through the back gate without a note from their parents. I have not exaggerated one word. It was pretty incredible.
My favorite childhood memory could have been behind that chainlink fence or at the park across the street. It could have been one of the many camping excursions, the trips we took as a family to the hill country or my first sleepover. No, my favorite memory is simple and precious. It’s also so vivid that I can recall the sensory experience, as if it had just happened, although it was twenty-seven years ago this summer.
The summer I turned eight years old, my dad taught me how to swim at Lake Somerville. I remember following him out to the water. I remember carefully putting my feet where he had just left indentions in the muddy bank. I remember how he firmly told me not to be afraid. I remember him turning my little hands into ‘boats’. I remember him teaching me the kicks. I do not remember feeling afraid, doubtful or inferior because I didn’t know what to do. I felt safe and sure.
I remember the way the lake water smelled on him mixed with his Sure deodorant and how it got all caught up on his furry chest (he was super fuzzy!). I remember the way the sun looked; dipping into its final performance of the day and sending shimmery, red, late-July light across the surface of the muddy lake. I remember his assuring voice guiding me through the steps and patiently waiting for me to pick up the skill. I remember how it felt the first time I soared away from him and surprised myself with my strength.
I have subconsciously conjured this precious recollection hundreds of times over. Until recently I had not realized that it is definitely the most dear to my heart out of all the unforgettable moments of a childhood like mine. The brilliance of the recall might be part of why I favor it so much. However, being able to bring back who I was and who he was so realistically is just extra goodness.
I love this memory so much because it exemplifies who my daddy was to me and who I was to him. I was his to protect, lead, care for, reassure, admonish, make strong and prepared for the world. He was all those things to me and more.
So in my own life, in my own time, I have learned again how to step where he stepped, to not be afraid, to use my hands and the tools I had been given. I have remembered his assuring wisdom, referenced his guidance and learned from the skills he lived out in front of me. I have, more times than I had ever imagined that I could, surprised myself with my strength – but I never would have known it had it not been for him.