As I tie the laces on my tennis shoes and start my workout video, I'm suddenly overwhelmed with a memory, and the sense of history repeating itself.
Maybe seven or eight, I was the same age Curly is now. Together, Mom and I would walk down the six steps to the side door of the church basement where Mom's semi-weekly aerobics class met. Generally, she wore a pink T-shirt with the logo "Muscles and Mustardeseeds" emblazoned on it in purple screen-printed letters, along with a friendly cartoon caterpillar and butterfly. We'd enter the cool dimness of the basement, which smelled faintly like damp concrete and the stale memory of potlucks past. As Mom turned the switch, the fluorescent lights flickered reluctantly to life with a tired hum.
Other church women would trickle in, ready for a bible study and exercises to break up their weekly routine and give friendship along with sweat and scripture. I usually retreated to the nursery, to sit on the chilly blue-gray carpet and play by myself with blocks or cars. In the other room, I could hear my mother's voice calling, "Grapevine!" or "Lightbulbs!" and the pounding beat of Farrell and Farrell's "Manifesto" pouring from the silver 80's Boom Box.
Growing bored with the nursery, I'd wander curiously through the dungeon-like tunnels of the ancient church basement, their walls streaked by moisture and rust. Once, I discovered the room where the Women's Ministry ran a charity thrift shop. The racks of used polyester dresses that smelled of body odor and the 1970's made me feel a little nervous, as if I'd inadvertently discovered Bluebeard's secret room. Somehow, devoid of the usual Sunday morning bustle, the empty, quiet, dark church kitchen, and even the mop closet seemed eery and waiting, as if it did not quite approve of the small girl wandering around by herself, unattended by watchful adults.
Eventually, Mom sang out "Cool Down!" and the mats would come out. Marking time by the never-varying routine of the workout, I'd hurry to visit my favorite stained-glass window on the stairs leading up to the sanctuary. Summer sunlight pouring through the south-facing window filtered through the colors of glass: red, blue, wheat and the creamy strips on the sides that looked as though they had been stirred during cooking, but never quite finished. I'd press my nose to the colors and close my eyelids, letting the red wash into my very soul. Somehow this window seemed a friend, one that waited for me and welcomed my beauty-loving heart in a way that the little girls of my acquaintance never did. I felt when I let those colors dance over my hands and body that I could someday create beauty and poetry and music in the same way that might dare to approach the glory of a sunset, or the power of a spring storm.
Long before I was done playing with my sunlight, for which I felt an affection almost like that for a pet kitten, Mom would call my name, her purple exercise mat rolled now and under her arm. I would run to her and take the heavy double-cassette boom box from her, proud of myself for helping her, and anticipating the warning not to drop it which inevitably followed.
Filled with the delights of my solitary exploration and my secret love affair with the stained glass, I'd follow Mom out to the car, watching the pattern of shapes and sun in the leaves of the trees overhead.
Today, I finished my workout video, panting as I did "Jumprope" and "Ski Hops" and wondered if my daughter would hear David Crowder or Sonic Flood in her memory as her Mom jumped and huffed and sweated. I wondered if she'd see in her memory the reds and pinks and greens of the sunlit glass on the windows in our little cottage. I smiled to myself, and pushed stop on my iPod.