One of my earliest memories I had growing up was during one of the summers me and my family went camping. I was about six or seven. I had just gotten one of those off-the-shelf fishing rods from a cheap convenience store, and up until then, I had never touched a fishing rod before, let alone know how to operate one. There was a little lake right beside our campsite, and as bright-eyed kids do, I eagerly ran over to test out my rod and catch some fish.
And as overzealous, ill-prepared kids do, I struggled. I just couldn't figure out how to cast the line. I barely figured out how to attach one of those shiny hooks to the other end. So I just pulled on the line until I created enough slack, grabbed the line by the hook and threw it as far as I could... which turned out to be in the shallow waters ten feet from shore. So I stood, waiting and hoping for the tide to pull the line further out. But of course, that time never came, so I had to reel the line in and throw it out as far as my skinny arms would let me.
I turned around and saw that my dad was behind me the entire time, watching me struggle but never interrupting me to take over. But just before the wave of embarrassment had a chance to settle in, he began clapping his hands and hollering with approval. And he came over and joined me. I understand now more than ever that kids' needs can be simple -- love and encouragement. Basking in that feeling -- whatever it is you call it -- when you know someone is proud of you, has no words. And for reasons unknown, he felt so proud in that moment, and I felt it. Still.
I've yet to catch my first fish and that's okay. Because there's a kind of memory that clings hard enough to remind you that it was once real, and that it was once good.