Preschool is back in session after a week off. I have two classes that each have one morning to themselves, so on Mondays, I have a tiny class of mostly 3-year-olds. We spend the first two hours of the day outdoors unless it is absolutely grotesque, and this morning happened to be pretty ideal for late November- high 30s and clear with a few spotty clouds. As we sat around the short little table in the gazebo (a perk to being short myself- I fit!) I asked them about their Thanksgiving meals and if they celebrated with their families or friends, specifically what part of their food they had enjoyed the most. There were a couple quick answers of turkey, followed by a discussion about gravy and if that was in fact acceptable to put on food. But then in a little break of quiet came my favorite response of all. “My favorite food was my pickle.” And every grown adult who cooked gorgeous, elaborate sides on Thursday, November 24th sighed with a little twinge of heartache. Our sincerest hopes of our people remembering the food we lavished over, and the highlight was a pickle that his auntie or grandpa likely snuck him from the refrigerator just so he would eat something. Or maybe he did eat every speck of his mashed potatoes, his cranberry sauce, his sweet potatoes and green beans, but that pickle was just so incredible it outshone them all. My heart swelled a little at that delightful response. It was the perfect little thought to ponder at 10am on a Monday morning.
Creator of goodness, bless the pickles in our lives. Bless the tangy, juicy morsels of goodness that are imbued with such perfection we can’t help but remember them.
Listening to children talk about the things they remember is an education all its own. Especially for those young enough that the day before feels the same as a month before, and any day other than the current is referred to as “other yesterday”, “tomorrow week”, or “last month day”. As adults, we think we know which events are going to become the lasting memories that become frozen in time with detail. I know there are days that I pray my children won’t remember- the ones when I’ve yelled, lost my temper, etc. One of them does tend to forget those days. The other is a bit of a grudge-holder, God bless her and keep her. I can’t remember a single thing about the day I started my period for the first time. That feels like something sacred that I should lay claim to at least a morsel of my hippocampus, and yet nada. Zilch. I do have a very vague image of being in my grandma’s kitchen while she laid out the foods and elements of my “red party”…or was that my sister’s red party? See? Nothing there. So why then, do I remember things from that same year with acute clarity? Why do I have a whole body memory of being 7, and struggling to fit everything I needed into my doll backpack so that my baby doll and I could (play) hike across the mountains to freedom while I hunted and fished for our sustenance? How do I remember the precise way my hair smelled when I would leave my favorite salon after getting my hair cut in college, and picture the way we could all fit perfectly around my grandparent’s dining room table? It’s not that I don’t want those memories, it’s just that the collection of them is baffling. And then there are those that I understand and hold with painful gratitude: being on the bedside of four loved ones just hours before they took their last breaths. An early and shocking miscarriage. The news of cancer diagnoses, divorces, Alzheimer’s, aneurisms…the awful beautiful details that often complete a life, peppering it with the stuff that requires grit and makes the beautiful bits even more radiant. I don’t know why the snow still smells like my grandpa’s pride as he taught me to cross country ski, and how my husband’s lips still taste like we’re 17 and boundless in our desire for all and more and forever. I don’t know if my daughter will always remember the Christmas she got the stomach flu, or shopping with me for her first bras. She probably will. Her mind is a vault. And maybe my little student will always think of Thanksgiving when he was 4 and remember that one really good pickle. Even if not, I am thankful that it got me to wonder.
Keeper of it all, bless our memories this Advent as they flood in, negligent of our will and control. May we bear them with the hope of the holy and hold grace for all our lives have witnesses.