I’ve always loved children’s books.
My mom told me a story about one night when I was small. Before a nightly bedtime story I asked when she’d teach me to read so I could read to myself.
I learned to read with a set of alphabet books and yellow manual we kept in a cupboard under the counter where I could reach. I’d pull the books out of the cabinet at some point each day and insist my parents teach me.
There’s something about those simple stories that resonate so deeply.
When I started junior high I realized my greatest fear was public speaking. I was shy, and sharing my thoughts publicly scared me to death.
For reasons I still can’t explain, I signed up for Ms. Peterson’s public speaking class in 8th grade. It changed my life.
Our first assignment was to read a children’s book to the class. We were to practice public speaking posture, tone, speed, and power in the pause. We rehearsed the stories for a week. Ms. Peterson even encouraged us to practice in the mirror a few times to gauge our facial expressions and how well we showed the pictures to our audience.
On the first day of presenting our finished product, Ms. Peterson asked who would like to go first. For reasons I still can’t explain, I volunteered. I tightly held my copy of “Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox” by Erin Dealey.
My knees shook and I was so afraid, but after encouragement from my teacher, I read the story. Despite my fear, I nailed it. I keep that book on a shelf at the seminary to remind me of that day when I performed scared.
Just after Jake was diagnosed with cancer, letters, messages, and gifts came flooding to the house. Each time one of our parents stopped by, they brought blankets, care packages, treats, kind words, and love from thoughtful people in our hometown.
One of the most poignant gifts was a children’s book from one of our high school teachers called, “After the Fall” by Dan Santat.
The story follows Humpty Dumpty, an egg famous for his “great fall”. It takes place after the fall has occurred. Humpty struggles with things he used to love and with fear of falling again. Slowly, Humpty overcomes the obstacles of his fall and eventually even “learns to fly”.
Jake and I kept a phrase visible in our home for 6 months to bring us comfort in this journey we’ve been on. “Not famous for falling. Learning to fly.”
My incredible Jake rang the bell yesterday to mark the end of his chemo treatment official. The plaque on the bell reads,
Ring this bell three times well
Its toll to clearly say,
My treatment’s done
This course is run
And I am on my way.
We’re on our way.
It’s hard to know what to say when so many have helped us so much. The best words I can find belong to Humpty Dumpty, Jake, and I:
Thank you for helping us learn to fly.
The first time Jake brought me roses was the last day of my first semester student teaching.
I had spent every morning of every school day with a group of incredibly faithful youth. We studied the last half of the New Testament together. My testimony was strengthened, and I grew to truly love those students and the scriptures.
When I look back at that time, those were some of my favorite days.
That semester marked the first few months of our eternal marriage. I had two jobs at the time and Jake had three. We were both going to school full time and adjusting to married life. We lived on Cedar City Main Street.
I remember bringing a limited menu of meals to the parking lot of Canyon View High School for Jake and me to eat together when he had a break from his janitorial duties.
Sometimes we’d search the car for quarters and use whatever change we had to buy a treat. One time we had enough for a pizza. We ate it in the car together and laughed. It was one of my favorite days.
Some of those days during that time were difficult. We were busy and looking forward to life settling down a little. Despite that, we grew to truly love those days. They became some of our favorites.
Yesterday was chemotherapy treatment #11 which means we’ve spent the past 5 ½ months fighting cancer. It also means we only have one treatment left. Jake’s numbers were great. We grinned the whole appointment. I added our last chemo treatment to our calendar for two weeks from yesterday. We can hardly believe it.
The past six months we have adjusted to a new time of life. We have hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes on hand, we got the flu shot, learned a whole new vocabulary, and we take every other Thursday off work for treatment. Though we don’t have five jobs between us anymore, we still collect quarters for pizza and we still look forward to life settling down a little.
Yesterday, we found another thing these days have had in common with those first few months of marriage days. We’ve grown to truly love them. They’ve become some of our favorites.
Jake and I made lunch together in the kitchen when we got home from treatment. He put his arms around me and said, “I’m going to miss having every other Thursday to just be with you”.
I’m going to miss that too.
I am grateful for every time of life, and I can think of no one else I want to spend each Thursday and every other day with for eternity.
In two weeks, we’ll ring the bell signifying the end of some hard but good days, and we’ll look forward to the next ones. I have a good feeling that they’ll be some of our favorites.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!