“..and perhaps it will be pleasing to have remembered these things one day.”
Virgil, The Aeneid
I have to admit it: it’s been hard for me recently as I think back on when my children were younger.
A few days ago my wife and I, and our eight year old son—who is seven years younger than the youngest of the five children above him—were finally cleaning out the basement. This necessarily included going through our huge stash of toys. I’m a little embarrassed to say that many play-things for all ages have accumulated there through the years. It was a tour through the stages of our children’s lives.
Each set of toys—‘little people,’ tinker toys, Lincoln logs—or figurine or doll or sword brought back images of the children, with all the passion and vigor of their childhood. Some things we set aside and kept, but most we discarded. Long use has taken its toll, and the time has come.
My wife and I tried to keep our focus, knowing what needs to be done and that we need to let go. A little later, when our youngest was in another room, we looked at each other, and we began to weep. As we held each other, we remembered with a strange blend of sorrow and joy so very many things. In the end, my wife reminded me that we need to be careful; our youngest must not think that we are living in the past.
Memory. One can use it to live in the past, or one can use to live in the present more fully, with gratitude. To be a person who remembers well is first to be grateful, and to see how the past exists in the present—since the cause is always in the effect. It is also a way of bringing out the power and reality of the past.
What our children were is part of who they are, and always will be. To lose sight of this is to lose sight of what endures even while some things are lost in the passage of time.
When children have grown, it is the honor and privilege of parents to be guardians of what was. Who else was and is so close to that precious reality and thus is capable of preserving it? But not preserving it like canning vegetables for the root cellar, or anxiously holding on to what we can’t let go.
Somehow this preserving is about something that can and will remain, something that remains ours to cherish —if we have eyes to see, and if we are willing to let go and to suffer, to give them life, which is what we always wanted.
The astounding gift of parenting is that it keeps calling us to new stages of giving, and in that giving to become ourselves, and receive back more than we have given, one hundred-fold.
“But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.”
R.L. Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses
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An absolutely beautiful read this eve of Thanksgiving.
Thank you, Christine. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!
This post made me cry. Once again, you read my heart, Dr. Cuddeback. We are at the end of our childrearing journey. The youngest of 9 children is almost 8. Thank you for the reminder to live in the present (mostly) and do the joyful work at hand.
Thank you, Margaret! We can encourage each other in these wonderful ‘final’ years. Many blessings on you all.
Too funny John. We have been cleaning out too. So much stuff and so many memories. Life was pretty simple with the older children but the midlife surprise came along ten years later and the amount of stuff that one got is just amazing. She is the horse girl so we are packing dozens of Breyer Horses, books about horses, pictures of horses, and articles of equestrian attire. However some of the best family trips were horse related.
The midlife surprise has her own house now on the other side of the farm. She has moved out of our house but her dog keeps coming back and she hasn’t taken all her cats. Her little apartment upstairs which I refer to as “The Rat’s Nest” Has taken days to empty. It’s still not empty enough to paint it.
I guess we are really empty nesters now but it doesn’t feel like it.
Aren’t midlife surprises amazing in so many ways? Good luck getting the cleaning done. I think we’ve gotten far enough that we can at least begin to picture what being done might look like! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I love this post and totally relate. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and thank you for being you and sharing it in your blog.
Well thank you very much, Malia, and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your too!
Because our good God is so generous and loving, he knows the bittersweetness of our journey as loving mothers and fathers, and so he does bless many of us with another go-around with grandchildren. Blessed be God in His great love for us.
Aren’t you keeping some for grandchildren? They (mostly) love old toys their parents had. The are far better made and demand more imagination in play than so many current ones. And the books, if not too grimey, are devoid af contemporary propaganda.
Kmbold, That’s a great point. We thought about that a bit. Many of the toys were simply too worn out to salvage. But to be honest, I’m going back into some of the bags of trash and taking a few more out, for the very reason you say here! It’s a judgment call. And as regards books… oh yes, that’s the bigger treasure that we’re keeping for the grandchildren. Amen to that. I can’t wait to get started reading together…
P.S., Your children are adorable in this photo.
A precious memory never to be forgotten. Thanks so much. When one of my children saw this post and photo she said: well, you didn’t exactly pick the most flattering photo!
So beautiful. In the same vein as my favorite piece: Elizabeth Foss’s “Don’t Blink.” Makes me cry every time! As Our Lord would have it, we are expecting our eighth baby, in our 40s. We’ll find ourselves with a toddler and a newborn once again. As our oldest will be turning 19, one has reached adulthood. (Seven to go!) Our child-rearing won’t be behind us for many years yet. Incidentally, if this baby is a boy, Mike is lobbying for the name Raphael.
Colby, Thanks for the thoughts. Many congratulations to you and Mike! And may God continue to bless your whole family.
Also, it just occurred to me: are you celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary this month? We wish you a most happy anniversary!
Thank you very much, Colby!