Memories creep to surface when you can’t fall asleep

By: 

Leah Lehman, Leader Columnist

Some nights, it doesn’t seem to matter how tired I am, I cannot fall asleep. I have learned to try to quiet my mind, drain away the thoughts that scurry back and forth. I try to think of all of the things I have to be thankful for, and list them one by one. But some nights, the brain keeps on running, and no matter how close I am to that restful sleep, it is elusive and skips away.

That night, I was thinking of toasted cheese sandwiches, and the first one I ever saw or ate. I never knew they existed until my oldest brother’s girlfriend (they eventually married) had come over to make us supper, and she did a very strange thing.

She buttered the wrong side of the bread, put sliced cheddar in between the two slices of bread, put it in a frying pan and toasted it slowly on the stove. To the best of my recollection, I had never eaten warm cheese before; I was used to eating cheese cold, between two slices of rye bread, which I also like. But this toasted cheese sandwich took things to another level.

When it was done, the bread was a light brown and had a tasty, buttery crunch, while the cheese oozed out between the bread and wrapped around my tongue with a warm, salty silkiness. It quickly became a favorite food, and I still make it from time to time.

The reason that sandwich weighed heavily on my mind was that my sister-in-law recently passed away, so I was reminiscing about when she first became part of my life. New people, new ideas — I couldn’t help but like her.

Another memory was when I was in the hospital with the broken leg, when I was in seventh grade. My brother, who was 12 years older than I, was in the same hospital with pneumonia. He used to sneak down the hall to visit me in my room, until a nurse would find him and chase him back to his room and the oxygen tent.

At that time, this same girlfriend did another thing that changed my life. As a get-well gift, she brought me an Elvis record, with “Hound Dog” on one side, and “Don’t Be Cruel” on the other. Those were big records, and Elvis was a rising star at the time, with me already a huge fan. Sad to say, sometime later, I had it on my bed and accidentally sat on it. So it is no more.

On this sleepless night, I did eventually get to sleep. But not before the memories came forth, along with the knowledge that there should have been more recent memories. Somehow, as the years passed by, our family no longer had birthday parties for the kids. After all, the kids grew up. My brother had passed away many years ago, so except for weddings, graduations or funerals, we hadn’t gotten together much anymore.

When someone passes, there are always a lot of sweet memories. Her sloppy Joes were the best I had ever eaten, her Christmas trees were always beautifully decorated. The birthday parties at her house were filled with joy and laughter.

This is another reminder that faith, family and friends are all that really matter.

Tigerton’s Leah Lehman, who calls herself a “small town country girl at heart,” offers memories of the past and observations of current events from the the viewpoint of someone born in the 1940s.