“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s 3:00-ish in the afternoon. A chilly sunny February day. I’m kneeling on our deck, working on a current project— applying dark stain to 2×4 plywood boards.
Yesterday eighteen years ago at this very time I sat on this deck with a little six year old girl named Katherine, and served her tea. I’d cobble together whatever snack items I could find and fancily fill a tray. We called it a tea party. Specially cut mini round pb&j sandwiches, tea in the teapot (or lemonade), raisins, cut-up fruit, cookies. She’d talk about her day and I’d grin and marvel at the sweetest most joyful little one. My nickname for her was Joy.
After our tea party she’d invariably trounce upstairs to her room and begin another school day—this time she was the teacher. She’d stand near her white board, writing lessons and enunciating to her slow of hearing students, correcting them soundly if they weren’t attentive. Sometimes her stern threatening voice sounded remarkably similar to the stern teacher she had that year.
She’d finish her pretend school day and then it would be time for entertainment. To the dress up clothes she’d go. She would don her favorite costume, jumping on chairs, off chairs, and spontaneously dancing and singing to whatever music was playing. So often she’d be bumped and bruised, but she kept going. We always said her two big brothers made her tough.
I’m glad I was there. I was privileged to be a stay at home mom for many years. I thank my husband for that. Today he thanks me for investing myself so fully in our four precious children.
There were the daily events like tea parties and playing school and then there were the special occasions. The birthday parties, always at home, every year. One night our talented friends dressed formally and hosted a game show, microphone in hand, in our living room. All the guests dressed in fancy attire for the formal event. We decorated with hanging gold stars and played a boisterous Family Feud. To the girls, it was an authentic game show.
Movie night was another birthday theme. We borrowed a monstrosity of a first-generation big screen TV. Just moving it from car to home was an enormous task. I hung movie posters on the walls, there was a ticket booth and a handsome attendant (Daddy) wearing a tux to seat all the young ladies. We set up eight chairs right in front of that monster of a television and watched Parent Trap together. The girls were given tickets as they first entered which they used to purchase goodies at the concession stand. It was a rousing success. It was also a lot of work and time and I would do it over 100 times if I could.
So many other memories swarm my mind as I remember this special girl. She was always singing. A small crack has opened in my memory and all the big feelings could just gush out and fill pages and pages, if I allowed them.
How can one capture what it means to have loved a child? Any parent would agree that there are no words to adequately capture the breadth and depth of the experience.
I always knew I loved my four children in an indescribable way. But, somehow as they’ve gotten older, and invariably I’ve gotten older, the feeling of love is so much deeper. Our second son was married almost three years ago. Two days after the amazing celebration, I found myself alone for the first time in quite a while. That Tuesday morning my husband left for a business trip, my best friends left to travel home, Katherine left to study in Spain, and our son and his bride departed for their honeymoon. I wish I could describe my feelings from that morning. I felt bereft and empty. I felt as though my heart was breaking into pieces, carried away with the ones leaving. I felt so full of love and pain at the same time.
The boards I’m staining are for a wedding next month. Our daughter Katherine’s wedding. Our last child to leave home. The one who makes us true empty nesters. It’s so cliche to say that the time has flown by. That you should cherish the moments because they pass so quickly. It’s all true. Time cannot be contained. It can’t be slowed. It can only be held and felt one moment at a time.
“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.”
― Maya Angelo