Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Delusions of our childhood days.

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"
-Charles Dickens

I often wonder what pieces of childhood my kids will take with them. What nuggets will travel with them as they journey through their adult lives? This is always more prominent in my mind at Christmas time. The traditions we schedule onto our full calendar. The things that can sometimes feel more like a checklist than a event to enjoy. The organizing. The scheduling. The preparation. The whining and lost tempers and fifty thousand reminders. It's not these things I wish for my kids to pack away into their memory folders, titled: The Missing Hat. Or: The Loudest Truck Ride. Or: Timeouts at the Rotary Lights. Because for every great moment, there are several awful ones squeezed in there, too.

But maybe filing away the bad with the good isn't such a terrible tragedy anyway. Maybe knowing the perfect moment is less about the perfection of the details but more about the details themselves. I hope my kids take the details with them. The freshly cut tree that was too heavy for two little boys to lug themselves. The Rudolph nose that delighted a boy so very obsessed with the reindeer. The cold biting their cheeks as they danced their way through a park filled with Christmas lights. The excitement of rediscovering ornaments tucked away from years past. The little sister perched at her brothers' feet as they decorate the tree. The Christmas carols singalongs. The sticky fingers and messy faces while decorating gingerbread houses. And the way their mom constantly chased after them with a camera desperate to capture all these details.

I often wonder what pieces of their childhood I'll take with me. Once they're gone and our days are quieter and calmer, what will I think of most when remembering these child rearing years? I'm almost certain I'll forget the squabbles and mad dashes and loud volume levels. Instead I'll reminisce the glory of the details. I'll carry these filed memories with me always.

It is in these details that I often think back to my childhood. The traditions of my youth. And it is in reliving old traditions and creating new ones that I'm transported back to the past while happily seated in the present.

This past weekend we packed a lot of stuff into a few days. Our old favorites and some new ones, plus the magic of the first snowfall of the season greeting us upon waking Sunday morning. Things weren't picture perfect. There were precarious moments where we questioned our sanity as we stuffed layer upon layer onto three kids several times over, hunting for lost hats and mittens. And wondered the point of the effort as we hushed and shushed and reminded again and again in a quiet restaurant where we filled our bellies with warm sustenance before the live outdoor nativity. But the imperfections are a natural part of life with small kids, something we remind ourselves during deep breathing and wide eyed endeavors. 

On the drive to the tree farm, we nearly pulled the truck over, put on the flashers and fled from the vehicle in a mad dash for silence. The cab of a pickup truck can very well be the most unpleasant place to spend any amount of time when the backseat is stuffed three deep with car seats, the kids on a mission to blow ear drums and rattle nerves. As soon as we arrived at the tree farm--and kids marshmallow fat in winter layers--all the chaos and stress of the ride fell away, and we were running through row upon row of trees, each a potential candidate for our own special Christmas tree. It is this example, and many like it, that I often think of. Will my children remember the horrid truck ride or the adventure at the tree farm? Or some mixture of both? My childhood memories contain an odd mix of both the good and the bad and a lot of the in between, and I suppose that's just about right. We can't filter out the ugly, so we might as well embrace them as a fact of life. Here's to many more stressful truck rides on the way to merry adventures! The Christmas season has begun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Between the lines

"Few people will understand that to love is like being able to select and read a good book. They don't just stop at the title or the cover. They stop because...they wanted to read the content. They wanted to read each word, each sentence, each line, but most of all, what was in between the lines."
-Lauren Klarfeld

I like doing life with my family. I don't mean just the highlight reel. Birthdays, holidays, vacations, and other extraordinary days. But the guts of life. The mundane, hard, suck the very being out of you stuff. It's not always pleasant. It's loud and busy and messy. And it's rarely easy. The tantrums and attitudes and fighting and sleepless nights. But it's these ordinary moments bookended between the photo worthy ones that stick with me the most. Homework and baths and chore charts and endless pages of chapter books and tummy raspberries and high-pitched giggles and kitchen dance parties and school drop-offs and grocery runs and towering laundry piles and a life lived like a run-on sentence because it simply doesn't stop, like, ever. It goes on and on. The good and the bad intermingling. The ordinary and extraordinary distant cousins. Each day resembles the next, yet distinctly different.

I like doing life with my family. Even on the nights when we're sitting around the supper table and the only thing I can think of as my favorite part of the day is nap time. Because yesterday or tomorrow a definite favorite will stand out, and someone will hooray with agreed enthusiasm--their favorite part of the day was the exact same thing! This life may not be glamorous or easy and it's definitely not mess free or quiet, but it's mine and it's my very favorite.

Here are some pictures from last month when I thought it was a good idea to take all three kids out for their yearly photo shoot--at the same time. The experience could be the perfect metaphor for our life. Disastrous, with both kids and parents having tantrums and attitudes and poor listening skills, but ultimately coming together to get the job done. And messy. Always with the mess.