CREATING MEMORIES, V
looking forward & back
It’s Mother’s Day! And I am in the blessed scenario of both having a mother and being a mother. Do you know, when I was a young child, my grandma had the pretty unique blessing of both being a grandma and having a grandma?! Yes, we had five generations alive at one time—all the way until right before my ninth birthday, when my Great Great Grandma died, still sharp as a whip. A lot of my childhood memories hold a lot of old people—my great granddaddy James (who lived with us for a while, right before he died), my great great grandma Martha, my great grandpa Willard, my great grandma Van, and all four grandparents (two of whom lived with us for a while) for a good bit of my childhood. And oh, how I wish there were some way to harness more of those memories—there is just nothing like generational blessing, and I so desperately wish I could cling to those times with my older relatives with more detail in my memory. It is one thing that makes me long—on the other side of the coin—to give my children as many opportunities with their grandparents and great grandparents as possible. It’s one piece of why my heart breaks at the thought that my children may never see my grandfather again—and their great grandparents on their paternal side never really knew them—and even their paternal grandparents are so far away… Knitting generations together is a beautiful tapestry, and sometimes it is hard to weave (sometimes impossible, because heaven is a long way away…), but it is so worth every effort. Every memory I have of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandma are treasures. True treasures.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…
Remember that my life is a breath…
And now as we finish up our conversation on creating memories, I am looking forward as well as looking backward. I am recalling some more little things from my own childhood. I am thinking of some more little things that I wonder if my children will remember when they are grown. And ultimately, I pray that my children will have the incredible blessing of knowing faithful generations on both sides of their own stories, and have treasure troves full of memories that these relationships weave through their lifetimes.
Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity You have created all the children of man!
~I remember my childhood church, and filling a really long pew in the balcony every week with five generations. I remember the Sunday School building, and how Pastor Flood had a gumball machine filled with jellybeans where we could spend pennies for the goodies, and a couple of my friends didn’t like the black ones so I always got extra. I remember going to Thursday School in a far back building on the church campus, where we did neat projects and I felt like a big kid because one day I week I got to “go to school.” I remember the children’s choir—originally called the New Creature Choir, where I learned how to play recorder. I remember musicals, dying to play a lead part, and singing with all my heart. My family didn’t do Awanas, but sometimes I got to go with a friend—we didn’t regularly do VBS either, but I remember going with friends one summer and being totally overwhelmed by the puppet show. I remember weddings and funerals there. I remember the big grass field where we played games, and the area of trees that bees flocked to and stickinesss covered the ground—I’ve long wondered what kind of trees those were. I fell in love with Jesus there, I fell in love with singing there, I fell in love with piano there, I made some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for there. I have very fond memories of my childhood church.
~I remember my childhood home, where I lived & loved from 4 to 14. I don’t really remember the little house we lived in before that, except for little snippets that have been largely aided by photographs I have seen throughout my life. But I remember my bright pink bedroom in our big house on the hill. I remember loving the swimming pool in the middle of the hill and the creek at the very foot of the hill. I remember the horse corral, and wishing it were not a dilapidated fence just to play around but rather a real paddock where I could run my own real (rather than imaginary) horses. I remember the blackberry bushes and the poison oak. I remember the tall grasses. I remember my brother finding pinecones to harvest pinenuts from like an Indian. I remember learning to dive in our pool. I remember friends staying in the poolhouse, which was our guesthouse. I remember my mom sponge painting the two changing rooms on the side of the poolhouse. I remember having a hot tub that never got used, until it was removed one year so my dad & brother could build a crazy computer room in its place. I remember where the little old television was set up downstairs, and the ceiling-high set of shelves covered in VHS tapes. I remember my brother sat in the oversized chair on the left, and I would sit with my dog Goldie on the grungy couch on the right. I remember having friends over to “play prairie” with me in the backyard (especially after my dad and brother built me my prairie house with the triple bunks, the window with shutters, and the fold-down table), and then we would eat mac & cheese and drink Diet Coke for special lunch treats.
I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love & duty
but as a profession that was fully as interesting & challenging
as any honorable profession in the world
and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.
~I remember going to classes. I remember ballet—I remember loving Miss Tammy to pieces, and wanting to be a ballerina forever. Later I remember another teacher, Mrs. H, poking my tummy and telling me I was getting pudgy—and how that has plagued me for over twenty years now. I remember going to art class, and adopting my teacher, Miss Carmel, as another grandma. I remember doing a writing class. I remember a group of us homeschooled kids getting together to put on a production of Anne of Green Gables. I remember literature classes, logic classes, a class on the Civil War. I remember piano lessons—I had three teachers in California, one teacher in Washington.
~I remember falling in love with writing. I remember creating my Little Women’s Society magazine, and meeting hundreds of young ladies across the country (and a couple internationally as well) through my publication. I remember spending hours writing, compiling, typing, formatting, honing computer skills, printing & collating & stapling & addressing publications month after month (every other month for a long time, eventually quarterly, and then by the time I was in college, I had to give it up altogether). I remember sharing my life on paper with friends and strangers alike.
~I remember having fifty penpals at one time, and I regularly corresponded by hand with each one. I loved these long distance friends keenly. A few, I got to meet in person when traveling, and some I actually moved to live near. I still know many of them. And there are a couple (Joanna in the midwest and Samantha in sunny Cal!!) who I still communicate with long-distance but have never (yet) met in person.
~I remember Sunday evenings at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Five generations, usually at least a dozen people in attendance, gathered in my grandma’s house every Sunday evening. I remember Grandma and Mama cooking, Aunt Wendy washing dishes. I remember watching America’s Funniest Home Videos after it was all cleaned up. I remember helping my little cousins take baths, playing Duplos together, teaching a cousin to play Go Fish.
You were and are mother to my father—
the tree from which apples fell and grew
from which apples fell and grew
from which apples now fall and grow.
You are gone from this orchard, but [we] […] will grow on,
pointing toward the Son you showed us.
We will live—and we will die—in Christ,
thankful that He placed us downstream in the river of your human grace.
~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p169~
~I remember my parents dressing up to go the Civic Light Opera, dropping us off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner and sometimes a sleepover. I remember trying to spin in the leather-plastic chairs at the dining room table with my brother (they must have been from the 70s but they were spinny and fantastic fun when nobody was looking!), but getting Grandpa’s stern eyes—the same eyes we’d get if we put our elbows on the table or got too wild. I remember Grandma’s frog cookie jar. I remember spending nights at my grandparents’ house sometimes—I would sleep on the floor next to my grandma, and my brother would sleep in their walk-in closet. I remember an entire shelf of cereals in their cupboard, and how my grandparents would mix different cereals and then pile a mountain of various fruit on the very top before drizzling a little milk over it all. I remember Great Grandpa’s woodpile and workshop. I remember how he built me a Victorian dollhouse by hand after he cut off all the fingers on his right hand with an electric saw (when he was about 90). I remember Great Great Grandma’s stiff chair with the doily on the top. I remember my noisy uncles always causing one raucous or another. I remember Grandpa and his avid gardening, especially the tomatoes and the roses. I remember making chocolate chip cookies with Grandma, and playing board game after board game after board game. I remember her trying to convince me that math was fun because it was just like a game, and the right answers were always “the win.”
~I remember going square dancing with my grandparents, their weekly date night out. I remember hearing about how my parents met at ten years old at a square dance in my other grandparents’ basement across the country. (I regret that I have never learned to square dance, and I hope better for my kids somehow.)
~I remember the parties my mom threw—St. Patty’s, July 4th, swimming parties, tea parties, Thanksgiving extravaganzas, Christmas parties of all sorts—kid parties where we made things with painted macaroni, or elegant evening parties with candlelight and classical music. I remember the food and the decorations. I remember how she worked hard but how she lived it up. She may not have had sparkly high heels on, but she wore aprons with pearls.
Oh, Marilla, I thought I was happy before.
Now I know that I just dreamed a pleasant dream of happiness.
This is the reality.
~L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams~
~I remember trips. I remember spending Halloween weekends at Disneyland because all the costumes were fun princesses and silly characters. I remember going away for three weeks at a time with my parents and my brother on road trips around various corners of the United States, with our maroon minivan packed full and our grey plywood car top carrier full of suitcases. I remember little tiny bits about going to Michigan when I was five, with both sets of my grandparents. I remember my granddad buying me a purple bike at a garage sale so that I could ride around Mackinac Island with everyone else. I remember my grandmother’s basement—the way it smelled, the cement floor and the fun toys, and imagining the square dances they used to host there. I remember the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico, and buying my own pair of moccasins near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I remember staying in Las Vegas, all the bright lights and the fancy hotels, and my parents having fun with nickel slots one night. I remember traveling back east with our best friends, going through all the Colonial hot spots we had studied together in history, seeing it all face to face and reenacted. I remember driving around in a rented motorhome one time, falling in love with people and places, lying on the bed in the back with my dad while we drew pictures of future dreams while Mama drove us around and Colin manned the maps.
~I remember uprooting and starting over with my family, moving from city to country. I remember watching my dad put pieces back together. I remember him starting churches. I remember God’s hand at work in my parents. I remember testing their faith. I remember old dreams and new dreams. I remember my dog dying in my arms. I remember knowing what joy was. I remember learning what grief was.
You make the best choices you can at the time with the information you have,
and then you deal with the consequences,
and that’s the part where your life happens.
Every major decision we’ve made involved prayer and advice from wise people,
but that was no guarantee that it would turn out the way I wanted,
with a little white house and a picket fence.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p39~
~I remember so many little snippets, just little sprinkles on the icing on the cake… and I don’t want to forget. But I do, and I will. So I want to enjoy the memories while I have them.
~I wonder if my children will remember how hard we worked to grow our family, how we prayed and cried and kept trying again. I wonder if they will remember standing in the bathroom with me while I put shots in my tummy and they take turns counting to ten for me while I inject. I wonder if they will remember life before and without one another, if Gabriel will remember his years as an only child when he cried & begged & prayed fervently for a little brother or sister.
~I wonder if my children will remember the schooling we give them—if the books, facts, lessons, tests, fieldtrips, and experiences will sink in deeply and take root. I wonder if they will have loved their educations as much as I did mine.
~I wonder what my children will remember about their grandparents and their great grandparents. I wonder whether it is the big memories like the family vacations or the big holidays they will remember most, or the daily ins and outs of living life together that will be the monuments in their minds.
The childhood shows the man
As morning shows the day.
~John Milton, Paradise Regained~
~I wonder if they will remember me asking their forgiveness when I have lost my temper or otherwise sinned against them. I wonder if they will remember me saying yes more often than no. I wonder if they will look back on their childhoods with delight instead of regret.
~I wonder what trips will stick strongest in their memories, and which birthday celebrations or holiday traditions will maintain monuments in their minds. What will be the traditions that our kids, once grown, will want to cling to and come back home for? Will any of our kids remember their lives here in the country so fondly that they too want to build on the family land? Will I have grandchildren who know me, love me, remember me?
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
~I want my children too to remember little snippets that will be the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. I want them to enjoy the memories they keep, and I want us all to enjoy making the memories in the meanwhile—by God’s grace and for His Kingdom.