A couple of days ago, I introduced a conversation to you. A conversation about memories ~ those from our own childhoods, and those that we desperately wish to inculcate into the lives of the children around us, in our homes, in our charge. As we jump into a few days’ meditation on this subject, please allow me to first share with you some of the hallmark memories from my own childhood, and the overarching theme which I remember permeating our family home & life. You are invited, and most welcome, to share your own experiences in the comments here or link over to your own blog if you have one. The intent is not to compare or even to contrast childhood memories, but to encourage one another as we see different beauties and varied glories in different homes among different families, to see with eyes of grace how the Lord has written different stories for each of us, to be lifted in spirit as we remember where we came from and look ahead in faith & hope to where He continues taking us.
CREATING MEMORIES, I
what I remember from my own childhood
~bedtime—singing, Daddy on guitar, Mama’s fingers running through my hair~
I remember bedtime like no other time of the day. Some of my very earliest memories (coming from someone who has a notoriously bad memory…) are of bedtime. Perhaps because it was the one predictable time of the day when all four of us were together, doing the same thing at the same time. I don’t remember how we got from the dinner table to our beds; I don’t recall if we had dinner, evening, or playtime routines; I don’t even honestly remember if my super-busy pediatrician father who was incessantly in high demand was with us every night for dinner or not (although I know for certain he was there often, and I imagine he did absolutely everything he could to be there every night).
But I remember being tucked in. I remember my dog either curling up on her pillow at the foot of my bed or scurrying underneath my bed to sleep. I remember my parents taking turns saying goodnight to my brother and me, singing to each of us separately, sometimes my dad settling himself with his guitar in between our bedroom doors to sing to us both at the same time. I remember my favorite “song” to request was “make-up, Daddy! make-up!” and he would make something up on the fly. I loved that! I remember my mother kneeling at the side of my bed, combing my hair with her fingers, sometimes just while she said goodnight and sang me a lullaby (which words she crafted when I was a wee thing), sometimes continuing until I had fully fallen asleep. I remember falling asleep with the most peaceful feeling that this was home, this was peace, this was comfort, this was love.
I remember how well they loved us without actually using words.
Because sometimes words are too difficult to hear.
Sometimes you’re just not ready to dissect what you’ve been through.
Sometimes you need both more and less than the words.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p98~
~freedom in playing & schedules & schooling—the comfort of balancing freedom with boundaries~
I remember feeling so free in my childhood. We were not married to schedules although we definitely kept to routines (don’t you kind of have to, in order to all function together smoothly, and to interact with the community around you?). I remember routines like “Thursday School” and going with my mom to her ladies’ Bible studies. I remember going to “the club” with my mom, coloring in Disney books (Ariel might have been my favorite… and one of my friends may have taught me to draw mermaids freehand, although I always ended up with the shells near the belly button somehow…), while my mom did aerobics. I loved watching her, tapping my toes to the rhythmic music. Sometimes we got to go swimming, play tennis, or play on the playground at the club. I remember the routine of Friday mornings, where my dad would take my brother and me on rounds with him at the hospitals. I remember hanging out in nursing stations while he donned yellow gowns and examined sweet tiny babies in nurseries. I remember the smell of the hospitals. I remember he would take us out for breakfast too: Jack In The Box was our agreed upon favorite at the time. Colin ordered things without eggs, I ordered things without sausage. We loved the delightful spoiling of getting to have a treat like Sprite or orange juice on a weekday morning. I remember getting to bring my schoolwork to my dad’s office, to sit at the little fold-up desk he had built right there into his own workplace. Sometimes I got to interact with patients, or hang out with his staff (including my grandma, who was the financial guru), but mostly I think I did try to focus on math and reading and writing. I remember doing schoolwork at home, and watching Little House on the Prairie on channel 36 when I was done with my lessons… although I tended to do more lessons in one day than I was technically supposed to. I remember my parents encouraging fieldtrips and experiences and reading for hours on end. I remember hanging out at the Saratoga library. I remember learning and growing and my curiosity expanding. I remember having time to create things, to play music or read books for hours on end, to run free and wild in our acre-wide backyard, to gather wild blackberries or catch tadpoles in the creek or hike through backyards to say hello to a horse a few homes down (I called her Sweet Pea, but I never actually found out her real name). I remember my friends all being tied to schedules and having very little downtime. I remember wishing my friends wouldn’t be grounded so often, because it always seemed to hurt my heart more than it hurt theirs when our precious playdates got canceled (perhaps that’s because my friends all had sisters, and I was the only one who didn’t). I remember feeling so beautifully free, but I remember the comfort of knowing my boundaries and of resting in the knowledge that breaking boundaries would result in the bittersweet blessing of discipline. I remember feeling loved and safe in the freedom of those boundaries.
~being my mama’s shadow and being allowed in my daddy’s world~
I remember following my mother everywhere. From the moment I was born, I think I somehow knew she was going to be my lifelong best friend and forever mentor. Church events, errands, hospitality, visiting those in need, catering monthly office lunches at my dad’s office, Sunday night family dinners at my grandma’s house, hosting tea parties, doing housework, cooking meals, folding laundry, adding chemicals to the swimming pool, sewing clothes and curtains and gifts, reorganizing cupboards and redecorating rooms. I loved shadowing my mother, learning from her, watching her, coming alongside her to groom my clumsy hands slowly into shadows of her skilled ones. I hardly ever remember being without her. When I did find myself without her (at piano lessons, ballet, or even if I waited in the car while she ran in to the bank or Safeway), I do recall a feeling of painful separation. I didn’t like being without the one whom I shadowed. I embraced it and loved it and was blessed by it. Thankfully, I think she did & was too!
I remember being allowed in my daddy’s world. From the weekly trips to breakfast and on hospital rounds, to the times (was it weekly also?) when I would spend mornings doing schoolwork in his office, to playing tennis, to learning different swimming strokes, to watching him woodwork in his shop, to singing alongside him while he strummed his guitar, to recording music together on cassette tapes, to driving around buckled into the back left seat of our minivan and shopping at Home Depot for wood or Fry’s Electronics for techy stuff I really didn’t understand ~ I loved being allowed in his world. I followed him like a little duckling, not always shaping my hands to imitate his, but always watching and gleaning and loving and respecting what his hands were doing… and his hands were always doing.
Here’s just one oddity about being people:
I don’t remember anything about showing up on this planet (and neither do you).
I am here. You are here.
Others have to explain it to me.
I take it on faith.
Everything that I believe about my own origin and the early years of being me,
I have heard secondhand.
I was clearly a free agent (based on the stories).
I was assessing things and making decisions and taking action (with an emphasis on self-interest).
I was living life to the fullest.
And all of it is gone, at least from my memory.
But humans are not intended for data storage (though we have that capacity).
We are intended for living, for moving through a story.
~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p96~
~my brother as my constant and best friend~
I remember how people would comment about our brother-sister relationship, how we never argued (let alone fought), how we were sometimes mistaken for twins (red head blue eyed freckled waifs!), how we had vastly different hobbies & interests but always found middle ground to love spending time together. I remember always looking up to him, and wanting to be like him in any ways that I could. I remember how he shadowed our father like I shadowed our mother. I remember knowing early on that he was basically a genius, and I tried hard to keep pace with him until we were teenagers when I realized calculus and computer languages just were not going to be my thing at all. I remember playing with him in the creek, watching him practice archery on the woodshed, how he helped my dad build me “a prairie house” playhouse, how I learned to type by watching him type, how he helped teach me to drive, how we did music together, how we did Scottish Highland dancing together, how we shared friends, how we shared love of being country kids (he with his cows, me with my horse) and he built me a chicken coop for my fifteenth birthday present because I was given nine little chicks that year. I remember being told that it would change when we grew up, that boys grow into men who necessarily have to love wives so intensely that sisters will have to grow into the background. I remember not believing what I was told. But even though our friendship is not the same depth because we do not have the unique time alone together for days on end anymore, our friendship is still present and unique. He is always there for me. He always answers the phone when I call him, whether with good news or bad. We pray for one another. We embrace one another’s kids with abandon. I see us in our children… and I see the beauty of my lifelong friendship with my beloved big brother reflected in the loving friendship our children now share. He is the only other person who shared my childhood, who has common memories with me, who gets the inside jokes or secret looks across the dining table at my parents’ house. Age and distance will never change that. And the things I remember from childhood, growing up with him as my only sibling and only real bosom friend, haven’t begun to fade yet, and I seriously pray they never will.
Because [he] is my only sibling, and I am his,
there’s something completely singular about our relationship.
There’s no one on earth who has shared our history,
no one on earth who can see the world from the corner that we alone inhabit.
… Now we are grown. And he is still one of my best friends…
There is a whole world, a whole history between us that no one else knows,
that no one else understands, and there are times when my brother and I catch eyes
in a room, across the dinner table, or across the yacht club,
understanding each other perfectly, wordlessly.
What a gift it is to share this town, this history, this family,
this corner of the world with someone like him.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p238~
~truth, beauty, and goodness as overarching themes that penetrated our everyday~
I remember the gospel glories of truth, beauty, and goodness penetrating every aspect of our family life. Home, church, homeschooling, hospitality, Daddy’s work, Mama’s work, our relationships. There was never any doubt Who ruled our home and family. There was never any doubt that the only things truly worth pursuing (individually and corporately) were those which held truth, beauty, and goodness ~ or at least the seeds or seedlings of them. Woodworking, home decorating, feeding bellies, lavish tables, huge Christmas trees, clothing, speaking, writing, singing, fellowshipping, exercising, serving at the City Team homeless shelter, leading Bible studies and craft nights, science projects with the J girls, hiking through the hills, finishing math pages, playing dressup… there was no aspect of my childhood where truth, beauty, and goodness did not permeate and saturate. Even (perhaps especially) when I sinned, and was disciplined, those three glorious themes were huge and everpresent. The forgiveness of my father was something I craved and loved and clung to… and it taught me about the forgiveness of my Heavenly Father as well.
While my parents may not have verbally used the tri fecta of truth, beauty, and goodness in so many words all the time, as I reflect upon my childhood, that is what I remember. It is what I knew, and what I know, and what I pray to continue knowing.