By Sarah Bengal
As a child, growing up amidst South fork farmlands, I remember waking up to the farmer’s tractor plowing the field next to my parents’ house. Despite the noise, what woke me was the zestful, fresh smell of the newly-tilled soil. Even now the crispness of that smell can actually make me feel as if I were lying in my old bed in my old room. Remembering that bed brings back a familiar twinge of pain to my ankle, since every time I kicked off the blankets and swung my feet over the edge, I’d smash my right ankle on “that damn nail sticking out.” Although six years old, I was already greatly influenced by my father’s brusque English vocabulary.
Whenever I think of my childhood, the field is one of the first memories that comes to mind. It seems that when I least expect it, these vivid sensations rise to the surface as if to drive out too many serious thoughts. If I try too hard to maintain the treasures of the past, reality creeps in like a cold chill across my skin trying to push away anything pleasant. What I’ve found as the best way to retain that blissful state of choice is to let the memories ramble freely of their own accord.
If I am relaxed, I can begin to receive random images of my childhood days laid out before my mind in vivid detail. These images are lent to me for an unknown period of time. While they last, it is as if I could step onto the stage of my past and act as myself, a child at play in the wonders of my world.
Although we might want to retrieve the pleasant memories of our childhood, we may not be able to avoid the unpleasant ones buried deep inside the places we try not to look. Of the best and worst times of our lives, other things have been layered purposefully on top of the bad, seldom allowing the bad ones of the past to be brought out. However, certain people, places, or events can extract the nearly forgotten most painful memories. It is amazing that these pains come only from the mind. So why does the feeling of physical agony and helplessness consume us to the point of actual physical ailments? As if the weight of the atmosphere is compressing our bodies or we are feeling the pains of a heart attack, the intensity from some secret pain can tear at the soul of the most confident person. With the enormous experiences available to us, hopefully most memories will be good. It takes great strength not to let the sadness of the past prevent us from seeing the beauty in our world.
My first realization of the vastness of this world was after the farmer’s plow had finished. I ran into the field, trying hard not to fall over the large clumps of overturned soil. When I stopped running, I found myself in the middle of this tremendous expanse of land. I remember stretching out my arms and lifting my face to the warmth of the sun. I stood in awe of this glorious creation God had made, soaking up the splendor of the gift I had been given, enjoying its every facet as my world. I wished so much to thank God personally for this great gift, but even at six I remember questioning how someone could actually talk to God.
In desiring to maintain and cultivate pleasant memories, we risk the possibility of turning up unpleasant memories buried in our past. One very painful event of my past was closely associated with my adventure in the plowed field. It was stirred to the surface when I was to be married. By my mother’s request the ceremony would be held in the church I attended as a child. Over my unjustifiable resistance, my mother’s wishes superseded my “selfish” request to avoid a religious wedding.
On the first evening of prenuptial classes my husband-to-be and I went to the Father’s office to begin our renewed religious education as a reliable source of inspiration in our upcoming marriage. As we approached the office door, a terrifying fear attached itself to my heart like a vise. I broke out in a cold sweat, began to shake and felt nauseated. My feet stopped abruptly about ten feet from the door. I felt as if a nightmare was about to be re-enacted. Without really hearing the pleas from my fiancé to explain what was happening, my uncontrolled reaction was to say, “I have to go to the bathroom. Please wait out here for me. Don’t go in without me!”