Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Opened Eyes

"Ah Nature, framed in fault..."
Do you ever get the feeling you can’t do anything right?

I have a melancholy disposition and it is my natural tendency.

I was the kind of kid who had a deep sense of right and wrong from an early age. One of my earliest memories attests to this. My older sister and I were supposed to be asleep. It was dark outside and our room was a bit too warm; we were talking and laughing and jumping on the beds. Our parents came in and scolded us. I remember my head again on my pillow staring up at the dark ceiling and saying to my sister, “the devil got to us that time,” and feeling that I understood such tensions of human life. I was around three years old.

During the months before Valerie was born, I volunteered at a local school one day a week to run a reading enrichment program. Various friends and neighbors looked after Eric and Joe who were then five and three.

 After we got home one afternoon, visited and enjoyed a snack, the boys were miraculously playing nicely. I thought I’d put my feet up for just a minute and close my eyes. I remember being in that delicious state between waking and sleeping where you can’t really feel your body and your mind is floating.

I felt the delicate warm breath of my three year old as he bent close to my face. “The whole time I was doing it, I knew you wouldn’t like it,” he whispered to my eyelids.

My eyes blinked open. There an inch from my face, were his big, serious blue eyes staring at me. He jumped back.

“What were you doing?”

He started to cry. “Picking berries off the fence!” he sobbed. I suppose I’d warned him about poisonous berries and after making sure he hadn’t eaten any, I talked to him a little about listening to that inner voice.

This child was one who listened. He didn’t always agree I was to find out, but he listened. Some weeks later, I was trying to motivate him to good behavior by calling upon the laws of the universe. Whatever was the issue I had underlined its importance by saying, “When you do that, it makes God sad.”

Looking back, I’m shocked that I had the nerve to say such a presumptuous thing. Those blue eyes again looking into my unseeing ones, said, “Does anything make God happy?”

I could not get my breath as I wrestled with the enormity of the question. It seemed as if there was a brighter way to think about life! And a little child had opened my eyes.

"... I'll cry thou canst be kind." -Gerard Manley Hopkins


  1. that black and white picture is Karl

  2. My little Joey (a second-born) said something similarly profound. We'd been visiting my cheerful, wonderful, white-haired great Aunt Joyce when Joey was about four. She welcomed us into her little old wooden house (used to be the family chicken coop before the Depression). As a mother, I'd been trying to make sure my boys saw that they "had to do right." Aunt Joyce drew us into her little comfortable home and into a comfortable, cushiony, bosomy hug. She asked my sons enthusiastically, "And how are my good boys?!" My Joey stared up at her, then at me with big blue eyes and a shy smile, and whispered in delighted amazement, "Mom! She called us her GOOD boys!"

    I could then so clearly see who hadn't been helping them to feel that special way...

  3. I had one of those moments, but not so directly. I was remembering my own feeling like I could/can never please my parents, that who I am and what I do can't measure up and so I went out of my way to tell my then three year old how much I loved her and that she is wonderful and precious. The look of surprise and pleasure she had still makes me cry to think about it. I must not say it enough.

  4. Thank you for this. Thank you for being real. I so appreciate hearing your stories from early days of motherhood and the lessons we can learn from them!