Sunday, November 2

The Tricky Path of Memory

My memory from a year I had only two sons:

One in 3T cinched-waist painters-pants and the other in red, shiny rainboots better known as 'bike breaks,' they hurried through our last school things: one last link on the paper chain of every book we'd read, the final spelling test and diorama and times-table quiz.  We raced to put the markers in the box, the scraps in the trash, the final folders in their pockets.  We checked the marble jar, cheering for our success, and grabbed the last prizes from the exhausted treasure box.  And then we turned out the light and jumped down the stairs to summer.

Lifting the lid off the sandbox was summer's grand opening event. The cool grit sifted through their tender fingers, shovels flying to dig the tunnel, crash the load, scatter the granules all around.  I put my feet on the deck rail, and penned in my journal what freedom felt like: like jumping in a lake, like standing in a breeze, like love. 

That memory is wrong. 

Because I have this habit of writing down our days I looked back at the journal from that time, that very day.  And very little of it was true. 

The true story:  Youngest Son had woken up sick that morning, throwing up as my husband left the house for the job that killed his soul.  I cleaned the mess, put him back in bed and began studies with Oldest Son.  As we neared the finish, Youngest awoke and I soothed him with a cartoon. Oldest was finishing up some writing, but wanted to watch too.  And there was an explosion over the injustice of, "no." Youngest sipped some water, tossed it back up, rocked. And I sat encumbered with the duty of love: hold one for comfort, hold the other for character.

Slowly, the work was finished.  Oldest made his own lunch.  Youngest went back to sleep.  And later, when his stomach was steady, bananas and water and bread, we ventured outside to the sandbox.  We did sit out there for two hours.  We did sing over summer.  But it wasn't with anticipation. It was with relief. 


It's funny how our memories fade, how we create the pasts in our minds that we wish we'd had.  How we tell stories of joy and yet we forget that what brought the joy on was some level of grief.  None of us just hops from joy to joy to joy.  We experience it staccatoed between the hours of tedious toil.  First one, then the other.  But the photo in our mind only remembers the smiles. 

Perhaps that's the grace of God; the suffering's been consoled so let's rejoice in that. We made it through another tantrum, another hard discussion, another stretching strain.  Feel that?  Relief. Gratitude. Hope.

This summer is now a memory.  And I wrote very little, recorded few moments.  I pushed through it with tenacity and resolve. I remember some remarkable moments: one boy shaving, one boy pitching, one boy Scouting, loud and loose.

They pushed themselves into new places, because I had to be somewhere else; a mother working for pay for the first time in their lives. There were days of shooing and shushing and day camps to give them the attention I couldn't spare.  What this summer left me with were a few small but necessary paychecks -- food in the fridge and gas in the car -- and a void in that place where mother is printed first over my heart.

The pains of change are never gentle. There's a reason to call transition the hardest point in birthing a human; transition creates pain.  When Oldest was coming hard and fast I groaned to my husband that I wanted to just go home.  He wiped my forehead and said, "You can't."  As the baby needs to come out, so our new life needs to emerge, young and incomplete but so full of everything that's possible.

I wonder what my future self will remember? I wonder what my memory will record?  What in the God-hewn story of the summer they were 15 and 12 and 7 will spring forth as waxing, winsome, or worthy?

  • Those moments in film school when 15 learned teamwork and editing and tact and won the prize for his efforts. 
  • Those days in engineering when 12 found a new love to pursue this year and beyond.  
  • Those times in camp when 7 got on a bus, helped a new friend, joined a group, spoke his needs. 

Sometimes the mama has to decrease to see the babes ascend.

The only summer they will ever be 15 and 12 and 7 is now past.  And in the autumn I find again what they will always ever be: charismatic, confident and competent.

May my memory hold fast.  May I never forget.  The path of descent is the path of transformation.

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For two years I have had comments turned off as a discipline to write for myself. I'm seeing the other side. I just ask that you comment with grace.