I am blessed to be one of those people who remember the minutest details about even the most trivial of experiences for an incredible number of years. I'm thankful for that because all of those memories have so many things associated with them... and they remind me to look at other people through different eyes... and hopefully to see what their hearts are feeling regardless of what their actions are saying. I think that this is in some ways an inherent characteristic... but more than that, I think it's a learned habit. My mother taught me to cherish the moment from the time I was a tiny thing. She could turn even the most routine thing into something special... something unforgettable... something full of value and meaning.
I grew up in a small town in Northeast Tennessee. Behind our house... over the fence... there was a pasture where cattle grazed in the summer months... beyond the pasture, a creek bubbled along... and beyond the creek, a hill gently rose. The hill was a mix of so many different worlds... some forest, some grassy field, a pond, wildflowers... and mountains of wild blackberry bushes.
"Wouldn't a blackberry cake taste wonderful today?" Those words would leave my mother's mouth on a morning during blackberry season... and of course, my mouth... and my brother's... would immediately start watering. Before we knew it, we were begging "Mama, can we puhleeeeeeze go pick blackberries?!?" And off we would go... pails in hand... to gather blackberries on the hill. We made up the rules as we went... you were only allowed to eat one blackberry for every five you put into the pail... if your pail got full you had to help the other person fill theirs... and you would never, ever tell Mama that you'd been in the pond!!
We'd come back to the house, the proud bearers of buckets of berries. Mama would immediately herd us to the bathtub... then slather us with lotion to combat the sunburn we'd inevitably managed to pick up. And we'd settle in amid the scents and sounds of first a blackberry cake being made... Mama singing as she mixed... and then the incredible smell as it baked. As it baked, my brother and I would sit with the mixing bowl between us... using our fingers to capture every last drop of the delicious batter... whispering about the frog in the pond... and the cow whose tail we'd teased... and the dead tree we'd hidden secret messages in... treasuring the secrets only the two of us shared.
An entire day of memories built simply because Mama said "Wouldn't a blackberry cake taste wonderful today?" And because Mama was (and still is!!) a very wise woman with a repertoire of brilliant questions like that, there are decades of memories... and memories still being created.
My mother gave me so many things I value... and she still adds to that treasure chest... and the most precious of those things are things that I can't put my hand on. They are the memories... the joys... the love... the sureness that in this world there is someone who cherishes me and believes in the person I have been... and am... and will become.
I love you, Mama