Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHOTOS and/or SOUVENIR(S) (vacation) (07/16/15)
TITLE: The Centre
By Terry R A Eissfeldt
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The small galvanized rectangle, designed to hold a card on which to identify the contents, is empty.
Never mind, you’ve opened this box before. You know what’s inside.
The lid lifts off easily and the aroma of time drifts up to your nostrils. More than the photographs the lingering smell of your father’s after shave triggers immediate time travel back to your childhood.
You’re in the centre.
You’re always in the centre.
That’s where middle children are in family pictures.
There’s five of you.
Like a staircase.
Perfectly in line.
Shortest to tallest.
Youngest to oldest.
In the background is the wonder. An open chasm. Hundreds of feet of free fall to the canyon below. Red dirt is in the foreground. Blue sky surrounds. You and your siblings in line. Standing on the precipice over the Badlands.
This was the first of two family vacations. Proper vacations. Where all was new.
Not like later when summer trips were reserved for traveling to visit family. Those were never vacations.
As you look at the child like wonder in your face you notice, not for the first time, the rebellion in your older brother’s eyes. He is not smiling at the cameraman.
The cameraman is your father.
Your mother is absent.
She remained at camp. Or in the vehicle. You can’t quite remember.
Your older sister is looking slightly uncomfortable on the tiny jut of land, however she manages a tight smile.
Your younger brother is full of glee. Full of life. Full of fun.
Your younger sister is adorable and sweet. Glad to be part of the adventure.
Although this picture is familiar it always reveals something new when you look at it. Today you realize that the five of you experienced very different childhoods.
Not just because of personality or birth order, but because of what your parents could or could not give you.
You all needed something different. But parents can’t give you what they don’t possess.
You needed a sense of place. A home base. A centre.
That’s hard to achieve with three cross country moves during your school years.
That’s difficult to create in the absence of marital love … affection … respect.
That’s impossible to experience when parents are absent … physically … emotionally. Too much pain … physical … emotional.
You replace the photo in the box feeling guilty. Like you’re judging and being a pessimist.
You don’t like pessimists.
You’ve always strived to be optimistic: glass perpetually half-full; rose coloured glasses firmly in place.
The epitome of the happy-go-lucky middle conciliatory child.
But life has caught up to you too many times by now to remain like that. To be that child full of wonder. To not notice the pain around you, screaming out silently in nuances.
You wish you could go back to that innocent time. But it’s gone.
You breathe deeply.
In … out … in … out … in … out.
You carry the box back to the closet, quietly closing the pine bi-fold doors.
You're about to leave the room but you stop and watch your sleeping child. The evidence of love. Yours and your husband’s. So happy. So in love. So centred.
You silently pray to your Father in Heaven. The One who rescued you from the halls of depression. The One who picked you up from the pits of despair. The One who led you to true love. To a real home. The centre of your life.
You sense He wishes to renew childlike wonder back into your life.
As you watch the baby, content in deep sleep; safe, warm, loved, wanted, a little more of your heart is softened. A little more is less like rock and more like flesh.
This new taste of life leads you to pray once more for your mother, and father, and siblings. You pray they too may find Father God, in all His goodness.
That they allow the One who has everything they need, to become the centre of their lives.
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