Archives for August 26, 2014

Tracing the pattern of our hands

shadows via

I can’t open up a blog page or Facebook without feeling the mothers, whose children returned to school already, mocking me from the pages. You know who you are, you with your big smiles and first day photos and cups of Starbucks coffee. You with your hours of time no longer filled with people determined to suck the very marrow from your bones by calling names and fighting over the last snack as if it were of life-changing importance. (It’s a bag of Smartfood popcorn, people. Perspective.)

We have entered purgatory, also known as the last full week of summer, where everything is boring, there’s nothing to eat in the fridge, I no longer care about the effects of too much tv on a developing brain, and a form of organizational madness overcomes me. I tackled the basement this weekend. I listened to five podcasts, watched three Gilmore Girls, and pretended I didn’t hear the ruckus taking place two floors up while sorting through boxes leftover from our move last year. I inadvertently listened to a podcast on minimalism, and after approximately sixteen hours of sorting through five hundred items of zero importance, I’m thinking of converting. Unfortunately, the people I live with won’t convert with me.

While in my cleaning frenzy, I came across the bins I labeled with each kid’s name, the ones I should label more accurately–mama memories. Small outfits and first birthday cards and turkeys drawn from the shape of my pre-schooler’s hand print filled each bin. When I found a few more recent items to add to their boxes, it occurred to me that I’m almost finished filling them. My oldest has three more years at home, only three more years of day-in-day-out memories to make with us, and her milestones no longer fit into a plastic tub in the basement. She outgrows more than receiving blankets now, she is beginning to outgrow us, and friends, it is bittersweet.

I taste the tang of it every time she evolves into the next version of herself and shimmies out of her skin and into the new one. I want to slow the tick of the clock to give me more time, more time to trace the pattern of her hands, to show her how to use those hands for work and worship, purpose and play. I want to teach her all the things I learned the hard way, how to cook a chicken and feign surprise and survive on less than five hours sleep when the kids start coming. How to choose love, every day, over and over again, and when you just can’t choose love anymore, when it veers dangerously into summer-induced madness, put in your earphones and go organize the basement.

I want to teach her to grab a hold of her one wild and precious life, to not wish away the difficult seasons and hide them in small plastic bins. Those seasons are the hallmarks, the true milestones, the ones that hold up a mirror and show us what we’re made of. As I looked through the scraps of paper and fabric holding my memories, I worried that perhaps I wished too many of the hard days away. I spent a great deal of those early years in a sleepless fog, directionless, running the hamster wheel of dishes and laundry and wiping bottoms, dawn to dusk. But I remember the way my girl looked in the polka-dot outfit, how I smoothed the fine downy hair at the nape of her neck. I remember the warm hands that grasped mine for the walk into school, the proud pumpkin bearers, the turkey-hands, the Christmas show where they smiled at me from the stage. I remember grabbing hold of these wild and precious lives in the middle of the night, and in the morning too.

I was there. Even when the photos don’t show it, my kids’ lives show every trace of my hand at work. You’re there, showing up in your kids’ everyday memories too. We’re not wishing away the years, we’re living them, through and through.


Are your kids back to school? What was the best part of your summer? And if you say hiding in the basement, I promise not to judge you.