Memories are not really of events, but of moments. A moment in time can represent for us an event, an era, a life. Why we remember one moment and not the one that preceded or followed it is a question for physiologists, philosophers, physicists and metaphysicists. They all have answers and, of course, they are all perfectly correct. Truth is all there is. We cannot invent it; we can only discover it. But when we have the explanations in our hands, they simply dissolve, again, into the memories of perfect moments. The dream-like quality of our brilliantly analytical minds stubbornly persists.
Oddly enough,when I let the memories of my perfect moments come, I find that rain is falling gently through all of them. Summer rain.
The first of these memories is of a summer afternoon on my cousin’s farm in Evergreen, NC. After noonday dinner, as we were resting in the parlor, my mother’s cousin Nan said, “We’re going over directly and dig some potatoes. Want to come?’
Nan’s husband, Whitey, drove the tractor and we followed along behind, picking up the little pink potatoes as they foamed out of the earth in the wake of the tractor and dropping them in the burlap sacks we dragged along with us. The soil was soft, warm as a cake fresh from the oven and the potatoes, nestled in it like eggs, were dear to the palms of my hands.
We were working quietly, the tractor snarling softly along, when the first rain drop touched my back. A second drop darkened a crumble of dirt by my hand. Then, finding me, quickening drops tatted the back of my hand. One found my scalp and another. I straightened and discovered that the late afternoon sunlight had turned the earth and our faces and hands and Whitey’s straw hat to gold, the rain sparkling as delicately as points of light in the glow. I closed my eyes and lifted my face to raindrops soft as baby kisses.
Then I opened my eyes, saw the raindrops twinkling along the brim of Whitey’s hat as he bounced and jerked along on the softly putting tractor, and I was looking at a Rembrandt. Only Rembrandt, who dipped his brushes in crusted gold, could have painted that scene.
But I had it. I knew it that I had it, would always have it. And now you have it, too.