Memory: A Second Heartbeat

Note: A special thank you to friends Paula and Christi. Their deep and meaningful insights led to this post.

At any moment, deep in the throes of our fast-paced lives, we can drift back to the gentle echoes of yesteryear. Irish writer John Banville said that the past beats inside us like a second heart. 
I find it curious that my second heart returns me to some very ordinary moments of my past.  My memory pulls back the curtain to reveal the most unremarkable scenes of my childhood.  Dinnertime. Playing outside.  Drying the dishes. Even just looking out a favorite window.  Time can lay a heavy hand on what has yet to be unraveled. 

Maybe my heart knew I would want to return to the ordinary for a second look, maybe to acknowledge something I did not see back then.  Maybe if only to retrieve and claim something I might have left behind.   
       -----G. Hill
So, I now RECLAIM a day in the fourth year of my life watching the busy hub of life on the Trionfo Farm.  It is summer and I am under the shade of a large maple tree a few feet from bushels of cucumbers about to be loaded onto to a waiting truck. Farm workers are everywhere. Some are hand-sorting the produce on long conveyor-type tables. My uncle is working on a vehicle in the large garage. My grandfather is coming out of the homey red brick house to talk to another farmer who lives nearby.  Another uncle is out in the field, driving a tractor.  My mother and aunts are in the house working on dinner.  Life feels like a harmonic hum that buzzes like a working beehive.  

I RECLAIM this rich tapestry of life. My memory has the luxury of hitting a pause button long enough to feel what we had back then, how we tilled acres of respect for the work, for cultivating the kind of character-brand grown from an unwavering work ethic that brings forth food from the good earth and sprouted communities of lifelong relationships. 
I also RECLAIM my place at the dinner table where our parents served up a rock-steady sense of belonging.  My place was at the end of the table, across from my mom.  My dad was to the left of me, my sister next to him. My brother to my right, then our little brother to his right. It now seems fitting that my place was at the end of the table: I was the first to leave.
Mealtime was our formal gathering time and yes, we bonded over a table filled with delicious food.  Mom's cooking was the best; always piping hot and ready to serve when my dad came home from work. I didn't realize then the huge comfort our mere coming together was. Conversations were a mixture of the perfunctory and the humor of the day, mostly led by our dad who related work stories or funny antics about his buddies.  Occasionally the conversation took on a more serious tone.  

It was at the evening meal when my sixteen-year-old-self had an important question for my dad.  A boy asked me out on a date. I told my mom, and she said I would have to ask my dad's permission at dinnertime.  I rehearsed the various ways to ask and after mustering up the nerve, I was secretly relieved when he said a firm,
                                                    "No. You are too young." 

Final answer. The boundaries were clear. No further discussion was sought, expected nor required . . . until the following year when permission was granted and a boy knocked on our door on date night, to first have that obligatory conversation with my dad.  Did I mention boundaries were clear back then?
Sometimes family supper was a learning experience. Our dad set the standard for respecting the food we grew and how it nourished us.  If we children were tempted to insert complaints about school, we were quickly shut down.  Schools and teachers were to be respected. And our mom simply nodded in agreement with almost everything.  She made everything taste so good and was the first to remind us, regardless of what we did that day or where we went, we 'd always hear:
                                                      "Be home by supper." 
And I RECLAIM my space as the dryer of dishes. After dinner, Mom washed the dishes, and I dried them.  It is a space I now hold dear because it was one daily ritual that gave me exclusive rights to my mom's full attention.  I used this time and space to prattle on about my friends and school.  Mom offered a comment here and there but mostly, she just listened. And I knew she was listening with her heart because I would see an occasional smile. Leo Buscaglia advises us not to underestimate the power of a listening ear. 

Somehow, I know she is still listening to me.  I am wrapped in gratitude for these memories softly tucked into my second heart.

 See also: One Dish at a Time, posted below.
I RECLAIM the space in front of the kitchen window that offered a view of the evergreen trees in the backyard.  (This was before we added the extra room.) My memory sends me back to this ordinary window, where I am warming my hands above the radiator.  It is winter.  Swirls of frost on the glass bring a surreal texture to the view outside and as always, I am wondering about what lies ahead for me in this strange and uncharted world that keeps calling out to me in secret and curious ways.
And finally, and most importantly, I RECLAIM love, as continuous care, unshakable concern, and the arms of security.  I now connect the dots that eluded me way back then.  My family was not demonstrative in expressing love.  Not many hugs.  The word 'love' barely spoken.  But love was expressed in so many ways.  Love does. Love mends. Love provides. Love nourishes. Love teaches. Love sets boundaries. Love is present. Love shows up. Love forgives.  And Love finds a way. 

And there it is, stored and accessible, love as a verb, spilling over my second heart in a crescendo of emotions.
      ----G. Hill
Some days I wish I could go back in life. 
Not to change anything, but to feel a few things twice.
            — S. Pandey
What memories would your second heart like to feel again?????
Memory is where heart-vessels meet, floating with the grace of a swan.
–G. Hill
Do not cry because it is over.
Be grateful because it happened.
      ------Dr. Seuss

See Also: One Dish at a Time


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Lori Pohlman says:

    Such a lovely reminder of a positive use of memory. Thank you, Gloria.


    1. Thank you, Lori. Makes me want to stop and take and value every living moment now.


  2. Linda Nuss says:

    As an only child, I never felt the warmth of family dinners that you describe. Thank you for providing the experience for me.


    1. Linda, Thank you for taking the time to comment. My growing up house was so noisy. Longing for quiet I’d go outside and climb a tree.


  3. Janet Steenburgh says:

    You don’t have enough room for all the memories this brought to the surface. I was a blessed youngster…loved by mom,dad and my mother’s aunt and uncle who shared in purchasing a lovely little craftsman style home. We too ate our meals together and always ended with homemade dessert. I still love the smell of apples cooking. Thank you.


    1. Thank you, Janet. I agree. There isn’t enough room for all the memories. My brothers, sister and I have been sharing among ourselves. We had the same parents, but different memories. Makes me smile.


  4. Carol Swendsen says:

    A beautifully written piece. My sister and I did the dishes. We both took turns mostly she washed. It was a lovely time time together. We did after we left home too always


    1. Carol,
      I can just picture the two of you in younger years as well as later in life. Sounds like a lovely gift to give each other.


      1. Carol Swendsen says:

        Gloria, I miss her …we would talk 


        div>about Different recipes and best way 

        to cook lamb or a new marinade. 


        div>She was my fashi

        Liked by 1 person

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