Most of us have, at best, fading memories of early childhood. There is almost nothing that we remember from those few years between birth and age three or four. Oftentimes these memories come to us as mental snapshots of a particular event or person.
I do have a few of those snapshots from my earliest years. I have a memory, for instance, of an electric frying pan falling from the kitchen counter onto the top of my bare foot when I was two or three years old and burning it quite badly.
I have a memory of sitting in the first row of a little country church in Wainfleet, Ontario, watching in awe and pride as my young and handsome father gave a sermon using an allegory with three little mice.
I also have a memory from the same period of being out in the yard of our country manse with my mother (she with a hard rake and me with a big, red, plastic baseball bat) killing snakes as they came out from under the house every day to catch the sun.
There is, however, one image from my earliest years that is more vivid and more powerful than any other. It’s the most vivid and powerful because it also comes with my first remembered thought. The first real thought that I recall involves my mother. I think I must have been three or four-years-old at the time and my family was then living in a small, red-brick bungalow in Niagara Falls.
I had a very bad chest cold. It was nighttime and I was in bed coughing and hacking. I remember wearing flannel pajamas that had blue-, black-, and white-colored stripes. I remember my mother coming into the room and with her soothing voice telling me that I was going to be “ok.”
I remember her sitting on the side of my bed and rubbing Vicks Vaporub on my chest.
Most importantly, I remember, as though it were yesterday, looking up into her eyes and thinking to myself: “You are the most beautiful girl in the whole world” and “I love so much!”
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as much genuine contentment as I did at that moment.
Fyodor Dostoevsky famously said through the mouth of Prince Myshkin in The Idiot that “Beauty will save the world.” I don’t know if this enigmatic statement is true or not, but I do know this: At that very moment when I looked into my mother’s eyes in that darkened, tiny room illumined only by a hallway light, one small boy’s world was formed by beauty.
Beauty is harmony, and if the human soul can be first formed by the beauty of a mother’s love, then it begins well. As I think about it now, I realize that to have had beauty and love as one’s first and most important thoughts is to have one’s sense of life—a benevolent sense of life—formed at an early age by the good and the beautiful. My mother gave that to me.
My mother was beautiful then and she still is today.
Happy Mother’s Day to “the most beautiful girl in the whole world”!