I see it all with startling clarity, right before the last bit of daylight slips under those yellowing fields, all swaying like a lion’s mane.
I stand still, with my arms crossed, a fair distance away, watching my two daughters and a dozen other 4-H children out by the fence at a neighbor’s farm. The whole glad scene unfolds in silhouette against the sinking sun.
That’s when I see the truth of it: time has a way of folding over on itself.
Suddenly, I am the little girl, wearing a blue-plaid shirt with pearly buttons ringed in silver. I’m the brunette bending down to pick up pumpkins, helping fill the back of a pickup truck with bright-orange orbs, hoping I’m stacking things up right, but not quite sure, because I’m self-conscious and awkward.
And there I am again, over by the pines. My head tips back with laughter at a joke that my mother (hopefully) can’t hear, and someone scolds me a few embarrassing seconds before I touch the electric fence. Then, I’m wrapping my arms around my whole self as the autumn breeze wriggles through the trees, catching my still-tanned limbs by surprise.
And later, when the monthly 4-H meeting begins on the front porch of the farmhouse, my sister sits on the step next to me; we argue over who has more room. One sister calls the other a “dummy.” And just then, a boy—still getting used to his deepening voice—calls the meeting to order with the help of a gavel.
A hush falls over the porch. We stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God.
I’m just a kid, pledging it all to that tiny little flag, flapping on a wooden stick in the breeze, feeling my young heart beat under my palm. I feel like so much of my life is ahead of me. And I’m absolutely right about that.
And then the 4-H leader calls for nominations for president, vice president and secretary. I fidget nervously and smooth down that stubborn cowlick while trying to muster up a shred of courage. I stand up tall in that moment when, at last, she asks if anyone would like to run for the position of 4-H reporter. The winner will be responsible for writing news stories about the meetings for the local weekly.
I am surprised by how much confidence spills out of my mouth when my own voice explains why I should be the club’s reporter for the year.
I didn’t see it the first time around, all those years ago, but my sister—the same sister who called me a dummy on the concrete stair—she’s looking up at me like she’s never been prouder. I don’t think I ever noticed how she patted me on the back after I won the election, even though it was uncontested. Another thirty years will pass before I remember that one, when my two girls replay the whole scene in front of me.
And I’m 99.9 percent sure that I never, ever saw this. I’m not altogether certain she was even there, because I wasn’t paying attention. I never noticed the woman in the back, my mother. I never saw the way she was sitting with her chin resting on her hand, watching the way a child finds untapped bravery and the way a sister lends quiet support and the way that time creases in layers, until two generations are no longer a span of years, but a stretch of mirrors.
And no one could have seen this: How the same mother gathered it all up, like a long string of memory, like she wanted to double-stick-tape it to the folds of her soul, so she wouldn’t forget that in a world filled with change, some things stay remarkably the same.
reposting from the archive
This song? It would make a beautiful soundtrack for any of us discovering that time has a way of folding over on itself. It is written and performed by Iowa native, Rachel Rhodes, the daughter of a dear friend of mine, Ann, who I’ve come to love through our work together at a spiritual retreat here in Iowa.
If you like the song, you’ll love to know that it’s FREE, right here!
You can also purchase the whole album, entitled Heartland, by clicking here.
So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!