Remembering Past Sunshine


Once, while I was on a solo flight over mountain country, my airplane was suddenly engulfed in a thick cloud. I could barely see the tip of the wing out the right window. Below me, the fields, the miniature houses, and the ribbons of road wrapping up the green valley floor had vanished. A Cessna 150 has no radar, and with the familiar landmarks gone, I panicked. Was I too low? How close were the mountains? Disorientation could prove fatal.

At that instant I remembered my flight instructor’s words: “Return to remembrance of past sunshine.” I took a deep breath and coaxed the plane into a 180-degree turn. The clouds began to thin, and sunshine returned. 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 turning off the lights late one night in preparation for bed when I heard laughter coming from our teenage girls’ bedroom. As I entered, I discovered the source of their merriment. Their mother had allowed them to read her old diary, and they were now on the pages 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 flipped pennies. With my daughters, 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 blue jeans, the bare feet, the teasing smile. I remembered hollering and jumping when the toad she put down my neck began to squirm.

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 a group of us went sledding. It wasn’t frostbite I felt in my fingers as I held her hand to help her up a hill.

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 relive special times.

One of the best ways to do that is to sit 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.

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 little diary, my daughters and I made a withdrawal and filled our love banks. The girls knew their parents were young once. They knew I loved their mother. 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.”

[illustration] Illustrated by David Linn