Once, during a solo flight over Rocky Mountain country, my airplane was suddenly engulfed in a thick cloud. I was alone. I panicked when the familiar landmarks vanished. The fields, the miniature houses, and the familiar ribbons of road wrapping up the green valley floor were gone. A small Cessna 150 has no radar. I could barely see the tip of the wing out the right window. Ahead I could see nothing.
Was I too low? How close were the mountains? Disorientation could prove fatal.
At that instant I remembered my flight instructor’s dictum: “Return to remembrance of past sunshine.” I told myself it was okay to breathe again as I coaxed the plane into a 180-degree horseshoe turn. Only by returning to where I had been would I find sunshine. The clouds began to thin. At last I saw a tiny tractor below, changing a field from yellow to brown. No one heard me shout for joy.
During the high adventures of home life we also need to return to remembrance of past sunshine. I was locking the doors and turning off the lights late one night in preparation for bed when I heard laughter coming from our teenage girls’ bedroom. As I entered to give them a “lights out,” I discovered the source of their merriment. They had found their mother’s old diary detailing her fifteenth year. They were full of questions for me: “What did you think when you and Mom first met?” “Why did Mom write like that?”
She had written of watching from her upstairs window while I rode past on my horse, and of seeing me at church. She had saved the coin she won from me when a group of us kids flipped pennies. With my daughters, I relived hours of experiences that, at the time they were written, were not so trivial.
As I recalled meeting and dating the girl who would become my wife, I could see her standing under the big willow trees in front of her house—the cut-off blue jeans, the bare feet, the teasing smile. I could feel the sensation of panic and I remember hollering and jumping when the toad she put down my neck began to squirm. I remembered the blue of her first formal and the difficulty of pinning on the first corsage I had ever given anyone.
Emotions jumped out of that too-long-closed treasure. I fell in love with my wife all over again as I described to the girls how she looked with moonlight reflecting off snowflakes in her hair the night an errant inner tube knocked us into a snowdrift. It wasn’t frostbite I felt in my fingers as I held her hand to help her up a hill. The warmth of that winter’s night returned that evening in my girls’ room.
Just as an airplane can encounter bad weather, our marriages sometimes encounter strong head winds or wander through heavy clouds. At such times, we can turn around 180 degrees. We can find and relive special times. Even if we haven’t kept a diary or journal, it’s not too late for us to re-create that sunshine. We can just sit down in some quiet place and start writing. We may write about the first time we saw our spouse, how we felt when we decided to get married, our funniest date, or our feelings upon having our first baby.
As we write, our hearts will open. A flood of memories will return, and strong emotions will be renewed. By recording these feelings, we will store away sunshine that can warm the heart in days and nights ahead.
Those whose marriage has just taken off can begin writing now. I suggest that you get a journal and capture all the fair weather you can. Record feelings, thoughts, aspirations.
It’s okay if we aren’t great writers. Even a simple line can be the key to a vast treasure chest of memories. Just as we would make regular deposits in a savings account, we can deposit sunshine for safekeeping. Times will come when withdrawals will be needed.
On the night we read my wife’s teenage musings, my daughters and I made a withdrawal from a little diary and filled our love banks. The girls knew I loved their mother. They knew their parents were young once. And I think that helped them feel secure. I kissed them good night and went upstairs to find their sleeping mother. I gently woke her and told her how pretty she was, and how pretty she is. I told her of my love for her, and of my appreciation for our years together.
Laughing, she felt my forehead. “Have you been dreaming?”
“Kind of,” I said. “I’ve been feeling sunshine.”