Sunday, February 5, 2012
If Jesus Walked on Water......
My blogger friend Tangled Lou over at Periphery posted a cool piece the other day that touched on the connection between memory and truth vs memory and fiction. Her opening hook gave three incidents that occurred with she was four years old. She recalled them as she remembered them, which admittedly, may or may not be the way they actually occurred. As I read those three memories, I was flooded with a memory of my own.
Once upon a time when I was five years old, I was playing out along side the garage (right over there by the clothes lines). My dad had recently deconstructed an old house and had been able to salvage the windows. He had stacked them on the ground along side of the garage but out of the general play way. Remember, now, that I was brought up in a devout Catholic home. I had heard the religious stories over and over again and one that always intrigued me was that one where Jesus walked on water. How did he do that? There must have been pictures in the prayer books of this mysterious event because it was so real in my imagination.
Maybe you've guessed where this story is going. That (maybe) one foot high stack of windows looked like water to me. I remember clearly thinking that Jesus walked on water. Maybe I would be able to as well. Okay, so maybe I wasn't the brightest five year old but I was curious, adventurous and I was a risk taker. Step on up. Walk across that window.
Oops. Though I was a fairly slight 5 year old, I was not slight enough to be held by the glass. My foot (which actually had a shoe on it that day) went right though the glass - all several layers of glass. Oddly enough, I can't remember an injury (though there must have been at least some scraping). What I do remember is being overwhelmed with fear and anger. I was so mad at myself for having done that. Papa was going to be SO MAD. He was going to yell at me. I distinctly recall laying down on the ground right there by the stack of windows and sobbing and hitting my hands against the dirt - ENRAGED at myself. After a bit, I went into the house looking for Mama. Papa was at work but I needed to tell someone what had happened. I don't recall much other than that she insisted that I would need to be the one to tell Papa when he got home. Let me tell you. I was one scared little girl.
That evening, Papa came home from work. It must have been a Saturday as the parents were getting ready to go out somewhere. Papa had taken a bath and shaved and was dressed in his very nice jacket and tie. I could smell his after shave lotion and that usually made me happy. Not that night. For some reason, I went into to talk to him while he was finishing getting dressed. Likely he had saved the bath water for me and I was supposed to be getting into the tub. I remember approaching him with great fear and telling him I needed to talk to him. He sat himself down on the toilet (all dressed in his fancy clothes) and gave me his full attention. I remember crying while I told him about wanting to walk on water like Jesus had done and that when I tried to do that, I broke the windows. My memory says he was holding my hands and he asked me if I learned anything (that man was all about learning things). Very clearly I remember telling him, "Yes, I learned that I couldn't walk on glass." My memory says he told me that he was glad that I had learned something and it was going to be okay. I was so relieved. He didn't yell. That was my biggest fear. He never hit me and I wasn't worried about that. I was worried that he wouldn't want me anymore.
All parts of this story are lodged in my memory. It's odd to me that I think of him as holding my hands because I don't have many memories of that sort of affection. But it really does fit. I suspect that Mama had prepared him for my words and, the fact that he had likely had a cocktail or two while getting ready to go out, might have helped my case. That's the thing with Robert. You never knew what to expect. You didn't know if he was going to yell or be patient. You didn't know if he was going to want you along when he went to the hardware store or if he was going to rage off . You didn't know if he was going to be a storyteller while you peeled those potatoes for dinner or if he was going to shoot pots and pans across the kitchen because he had detected some residual from last nights' dinner that the dishwasher of the night had not removed.
In retelling the story, I am reminded that, even as a 5 year old, I did not cut myself any slack. I am also reminded of how difficult it must have been to be a little kid in a world where love hinged on doing the right thing and where you really had to watch carefully to note the signs around you. I think I was born an observer and my childhood honed my observer / people skills. I learned how to read the 'rents and I also learned how to negotiate with the siblings. All good skills for life, heh?