Sarah’s Slice of Life: Memories

I have exactly two memories clinging to the edge of the abyss psychologists call “childhood amnesia,” the inability for adults to recollect childhood memories before the ages of 2 to 4. 

Ironically, both memories are associated with light. 

The memories center on ordinary days at our house near Lake Anna, Virginia, when I was 3 or 4 years old. My first childhood home has mostly succumbed to the realm of memory, turning into a mesh of things that still slip into my present thoughts — the taste of kiwi on a summer day, the cold feeling of a metal toy race car and our rough concrete carport under my toes.

But the memories of light remain substantial in my mind, always accessible when I need to recall them, and that is why they’re some of my favorite childhood memories. 

As a child, you could always find me outside. Our house had a spacious backyard with a dirt road lining the edge. Huge clouds of dust would billow up whenever a pickup truck came down the road. Oak trees lined the rest of the property, casting leaf shadows across the grass.

The backyard is the setting for the first memory. It was just another summer day. I was standing near our shed, probably playing some imaginary game that I’ve forgotten the rules to. 

Suddenly, some clouds passed over the sun. I remember being astounded with the darkness that followed. It covered everything — the grass, the trees and even me. I had never seen the sun disappear like that, like it was only a candle flame someone had just blown out. 

But just as suddenly as it came, the darkness vanished when the clouds moved on. And this is the pinnacle part of the memory for me — when the light washed back over the yard. I couldn’t describe what it looked like then, but now, I see it as a wave, returning color to the world with one stroke.

The second memory took place indoors, and this time, there were no shadows — only light. 

The blinds to our sliding glass door had been pulled back, allowing the light from a setting sun to stream in. A little marble statue of a cherub angel stood in the corner of the room. It looked exactly like how you’re probably imagining it — about 3 feet high, with chubby gray cheeks and marble-like eyes, holding a little bow notched with an arrow. 

My brother and I were playing near it, pushing each other around in yet another game I don’t remember the rules to. One of us pushed too hard, and we both ran into the statue. 

It didn’t break, but because it had come into my immediate perspective, I finally saw it even though it had been there the whole time. And what I noticed was this — the light from the sunset glinting on the marble turned the plain gray into something golden. 

In the book “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson, the protagonist John Ames says, “Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.”

Now, those two ordinary memories feel like two instances of a silent and invisible life — the moments when God tweaks our vision just a smidge so we can see his grace even in the mundanity of our everyday lives. 

Looking back on those instances always gives me a new perspective. Out of everything my 21 years has brought me, something as simple as sunlight still clings to the edge of my fondest memories.

Sarah Tate

These two memories got me thinking: what other kind of simple, everyday things do we miss or ignore just because we see or experience them every day?

As time goes on, I hope to spotlight some of these things and write about their significance. For me, there’s nothing more important than engaging with God’s world — from the tiniest blade of grass to the highest mountain peak — because God made it all. 

Next semester, my column will highlight a different slice of the ordinary life. After all, clouds pass over the sun every day. It’s only when we’re looking, though, that we get to see the light come back again. 

Tate is the Editor-in-Chief. Follow her on Twitter

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