What fights with us is so large. What we choose to fight with is so small. — Rilke
Lately Nick and I have been thumb wrestling. We’re fairly matched, but he cheats anyway and licks his thumb when he thinks I’m not looking. It slips out from under mine when I try to pin it.
We can go ten, twenty minutes of thumb wrestling on the living room couch. It’s a lot easier on the tender parts than full-body wrestling.
When we’ve had enough, it’s the same satisfied, connected feeling between us. We’ll lean back and sometimes he’ll rest his head on my chest. We were a long time resting that way the other night.
He said, “This is heaven.”
I was thinking the same.
Years ago, Nora and I watched a Japanese movie called After Life. People after dying arrived at a sort of hotel way-station. They were allowed one memory to take with them into eternity.
Once a person decided, a crew re-staged and filmed the moment, and the person could move on.
I have many memories of Nick in my arms, and Nora in my arms, and all three of us entwined. But perhaps because Nick, Nora and I are still making memories, I wouldn’t choose any of them yet, at least not from this look out.
If I had to choose now, I’d reach for something unreachable. A part of my past so remote and inaccessible it seems that only God himself or the devil could offer it up to touch again.
The desire for it makes me crazy.
I was sixteen, at summer camp, in love with every girl.
Friday evenings, white shirts and blouses for Sabbath services in an outdoor chapel bordering the creek. We sat on log benches and poplar trees swayed around us and sycamores above. But this is not the memory.
After services everyone traipsed in twos and threes through the canyon twilight to the dining hall. We sat at long tables with our cabin mates and counselors and ate fried chicken. There was joy and noise and laughter. But this is not the memory.
The memory comes after the dishes were cleared, the tables wiped, and songbooks passed out.
Chuck, the music director, assumed his place at the piano and paused, waiting for quiet. Then he sounded a chord or played a brief intro, everyone rapt. Three hundred voices became one.
And we sang.
It went on for an hour. Bible songs, camp songs, folk songs. Justice. Brotherhood. Joshua, King David, Ruth and Esther.
O heavenly choir! What will be at the coming of Messiah?
It was harmony and communion, faith and grace, all I hope ever to be part of.
It was good. It was good. It was very, very good.
GOOD AND BAD
The day after my mother died, the rabbi, who was as near a sage as any I’d ever met, came and asked my sisters and myself about our memories of her.
I wanted to be diplomatic.
“Well, there’s good and bad,” I said.
He was silent a moment, then said, “You know, there’s very little good in life without bad.”
I want to say something wise here, such as that every moment contains both heaven and hell, and it’s our desire to hold on to things that can’t be held on to that makes us think the two can be kept apart.
I think of that lost summer at camp, those voices disbursed by the wind, and it fills me up sad. I hold Nick in my arms and want to cry for the lonely boy I was. It’s when I’m in these places that I think everything is so beautiful.
Everything is so goddamn beautiful.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Sweet Child of Mine (Capital Children’s Choir):
What’s your moment? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below: