Feature: Memory

Chance conversation at work revives son's precious memory of his mother

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STORMY WEATHER: A sudden rain shower in the country created­ a memory that would be cherished years later.

iStockPhoto.com/Tomasz Pietryszek

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Good memories can sometimes be like items in a lost and found department. With time they become lost, but when they're recovered years later, they seem magical.

As I reached my fifth birthday, my family had moved to a farm near Waverly, Tenn. A pasture rolled out from the front yard, and on its border a creek-gravel driveway stretched just over two-tenths of a mile.

My mother and I walked up this lane nearly every morning. It was here one day that we were chased home by a steadfast predator: a hard-pouring shower.

Until then, I'd been warned to steer clear of rain. Now, the shower was bearing down on us with an implacable certainty. No matter how fast my mother and I ran, we would not make it to the safety and shelter of our home. It looked like the end for us.

Mom scooped me up and continued to run. The rain overtook us as we neared our yard, and I began to cry as the droplets wet my hair. That's when Mom decided it was time to let me know that the rain wouldn't hurt me, just make me wet. To prove it, she put me down and held out her arms, letting them quickly become soaked.

We were both drenched in seconds, but we had smiles on our faces. Mine was because I'd survived the onslaught of this lashing rain, hers was from witnessing the natural and innocent beauty that only comes in the form of a small child.

Four short years after that day, my mother lost a hard-fought battle with breast cancer. Most of the memories I had of Mom seemed to slip away with her.

As I aged and started a family of my own, I tried to remember things about her. I recalled bits and pieces, but never her smiling face that day.

A smile returns

I now live in the house where I grew up, with a beautiful wife and three handsome boys of our own. I work for a nursing home in town, and one day at work, I overheard a nursing assistant talking about the house where she grew up. I knew the house, because it was only a mile from ours.

That conversation got me thinking about my early childhood, and as I drove home that afternoon, the memory popped into my head of that long-ago day 35 years before, when my mother and I ran down that same country lane.

I could see again the wall of pelting rain as it roared after us, my mother scooping me in her arms, and the two of us stopping after it caught us. Then, for the first time in many long years, I saw her face - happy and with a beautiful smile that seemed to transcend time itself.

It's funny how a memory can become lost in the tangles of the mind and lie there only to be recovered by just the right trigger. Now this memory, so firm and constant with its arrival, had brought me a much-needed smile.

There must be more good memories of Mom, locked away somewhere in my mind. Maybe soon, another will find its way through, and bring with it another smile.