close the gate



The bell           

Sitting in church on Sunday and my ears perk up to the sound of a bell. Not a giant church type but the soft jingle, jingle of a bell from a child's toy. The sound is the exact same as the sound my twin boys' shoes used to make.

Same pitch. Same note. Same sound. The memories of the twins as babies came rushing at me like a rabble of migrating butterflies. Precious, fragile and fleeting. The boys will be thirty years old in September. Where has the time gone? I feel tears well up in my eyes as I bring forth from the depths some things I haven't thought about in a long time all conjured up by the jingling of a bell somewhere behind me in church. 

Thirty years ago my babies wore the white leather high top baby shoes, which actually tied with shoestrings. A gift we had received was — let's see if I can accurately describe them for you — two pair of little white plastic cylinder things with yellow duckies on the top and bells on each end. About an inch and a half long, one of the bells was attached to a cap, which unscrewed revealing a slit halfway along the bottom of the tube. We would tie the boys' shoes and then take the bow knot and slip it through the slit, tuck in the loops and ends of the laces and then screw the bell back on. Ta-Dah! The bow was trapped in the ducky device and would not come untied. Four baby feet and eight little bells that would softly jingle when the babies kicked their feet, which they did a lot, and the sound was permanently embedded in my brain.

Wonderful, happy, charming little boys! So full of mischief and so lovable! One did all the talking and the other just nodded. One would head off to look for trouble and the other followed to join in the fun. Their favorite thing was to mess up anything their sister was doing. She would torture them with pranks and they would just come back for more. Man, were they fun!

Then all the doubts creep in to smudge up my perfect picture memory.

Were they raised right? They didn't come to church much with me after they were confirmed, which seems quite common. Should I have pushed it?

Did I do my best to make sure they knew it was in no way their fault when their father left me? They were almost nine and their sister was just thirteen. ... Babies! They were just babies! They seemed to adjust well, but did they really?   

I have always been a bit of a workaholic. Was there enough quality time? 

In spite of my doubts ,the boys went on to school, stayed out of trouble (mostly), made good career choices, found wonderful mates and have each been married already a handful of years. They have started their own families. Each has blessed us with a grandchild and one has another one on the way.

Why do the negative thoughts always have to come and step on the toes of the great memories? I guess more of the point is: Why do I let them?

It never ceases to amaze me how a sound, something so small as the jingling of a bell, can bring forth such a flood of memories and emotion. But it was not just A sound, it was THE exact sound as my ears recall. There is even a term for it: echoic memory.

Echoic memories are stored longer in the brain than visual (called iconic) ones. Because you are able to see things for a longer time and can scan from different angles where as sounds are sort of a once-and-done thing the brain processes them differently. Sounds go into a sort of holding tank in the brain until they are heard again and I guess that's what happened with the bell.

As I close the gate, I admit to you I missed the sermon and most of its worth,

That faint jingling bell I heard in the church brought me heaven right here on earth.


Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult, I'm Nancy Kraayenhof. ©2015




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