The Right Bait

Our earliest memories are foundational to our identity and the key to our very being. Long before the capacity of our actual recall, most of us have “mamma’s stories”. Virtually every mother rehearses events about their babies, re-telling the stories of our earliest life, long before we have memory or cognition. Then all mothers do what we all dread, apply their perceptions of our earliest personality characteristics to the current patterns of our lives…as if they…by seniority and maternal priority, have some divine intuition into our entire future. For instance, I was late for my own birth by two weeks and therefore, of course, have been late for everything since. Or, I was such a calm and self-content infant, moving my hands in the air, and looking was constantly toward the ceiling. My mother still insists that I was seeing and talking to angels…therefore, of course I was called by God into the ministry as an adult.

One of the most ancient incidents I do clearly remember was going fishing for the very first time, with my father when I was just 4 years old. My family was camping in the local provincial park under the long shadows of the mighty Ivy Lee Bridge that connected Canada to the United States, right near Brockville, Ontario, the small town where I was born. This massive steel suspension bridge towered over the mighty St. Lawrence River and Seaway. Majestic ocean liners and huge freighters fearlessly sailed beneath her soaring superstructure and we had a front row seat. That night, my parents made a warm campfire and I discovered toasted marsh mellows. Before bedding down in our tent without a floor, my dad told me he was taking me fishing very early in the morning. Well, he was right! It was dark and cold to my tired body when my father woke me up. I got dressed, and we stumbled in an eerie misty grayness down the slippery banks carrying fishing poles and a thing called a “bait box”. My dad told me that the St. Lawrence River emptied the Great Lakes into the Ocean, and it was about two miles wide. I took it all so seriously. In the pre-dawn, a long and low pale pink cloud lay on the far bank of the river, but then richer colors began to shimmer near the horizon and the darkness began to retreat.

But my dad had come to fish… That was also the very first time I ever touched a worm, which was bad enough, but then I had to put it on the hook…yuck! Finally, I was all set and dropped the baited hook in the water with a splash, only to begin to wait. My father told me that the fish were not up yet and for me to be patient. I waited for the fish to wake up, want their breakfast, then bite my squirming, wiggly worm on the end of that sharp hook. That poor worm was probably drowning in the river, I reasoned.

My dad softly touched my shoulder breaking me from such sad and childish thoughts and pointed. Then I saw the most beautiful sight I had ever seen…a shiny, golden sun was just beginning to rise from it bed beneath the earth. Its brilliant curve was perfectly framed, and rising right under the amazing arch of the longest span of the bridge. I was transfixed, and slowly the sun cleared the horizon, then accelerated in its lift off. I distinctly remember telling my father, “There must be a Creator”, and “He painted such a wonderful sight just for us” (a fact that seemed obvious to me as there was no one else around). In fact from that time, I think that I have always believed in God and do not remember a time that I did not believe He existed. While I watched, the sun became increasingly brighter, more yellow and the world began to wake up too. Soon the eye-hurting but glorious sun was embracing the bridge, silhouetting its amazing span. From that day, I have always loved sunrises, remembering that significant time I realized that there is an Almighty Being who created the universe, paints the sky and tenderly cares for us all.

Suddenly, I felt a tug in my hands. Only then I realized that I was supposed to be fishing rather that sight-seeing or even worshipping. My dad deftly showed me how to set the hook and helped me reel in the fish that had swallowed my worm. What a catch! My very first fish! It was a beautiful, shimmering, multi-colored, little “sun fish” who was flipping his tail, so of course, I let him go back to his home in the water. What a morning I had with my Father…. I had come to fish but God caught me with a sunrise!

Dr. Kenneth N. Brown LMFT

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