Saturday, October 24, 2009

Investing in Time

Do you ever look at your kids and think about what your life was like at the age they are? I do that quite a bit, and have ever since my oldest was just a baby. I didn't start out doing it intentionally really, but one day when she was just a wee little thing, I had a memory of myself at about the same age. Those who know me know that I have a very unusual memory that goes back almost literally from the time I was born.

Since that first time I remembered myself at the same age, I've tried to do this intentionally for no other reason than to try to understand where they're coming from, a little better. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The times it doesn't I think may be due to far too many "grown up stuff" clogging the pipes. Sometimes it's easy to remember life at a certain age, and other times the life experiences you've had since then cloud the view so much you really can't recall it.

I thought about all this the other day as my 6 yr old Ruth was sitting at the table working on her long vowel U page, in her phonics workbook. I remember learning the long vowel sounds, and doing the exact same kinds of exercises on worksheets that she does today. So, in a type of "this is where I am right now" post, "this is where I was then" at the ages my kids are now, starting with Ruth:


The year I turned 6 I was in kindergarten. I started school in September and turned 6 in December. Grandma took me down to the hair salon at JC Penney right before school and I got my first professional haircut. They called it a Pixie cut, and I hated it. There was a boy in my class that wore black leather shoes with buckles on them, and he was the fastest runner in the class. I'm not even sure I ever knew his real name, but everyone just called him Speedy.

The year I turned 9 I was in 1973. Entering the third grade that year, and in Mrs. McVicker's class. Mrs. McVicker always had lipstick on her teeth and she was one of those teachers that truly and genuinely loved children, and loved to teach. This was the year that my math-barrior came down and suddenly math made sense to me, and I began to love it. I started dividing fractions just for fun, and to see if I could do it.

The year I turned 10 was grade 4 and Mr. Kono's class. Mr. Kono had no business teaching children, but that's what he did for a living. This year I discovered how good I was on the monkey bar flips, and would walk up to the school on weekends just to practice. I had fancy ideas of becoming a gymnast and entering the Olympics. I never got got beyond the playground and the sawdust covered ground of the monkey bars.

The year I turned 12 was sixth grade and Mr. Lindberg's class. A lot of changes that year I wasn't very happy with. That was my first year with glasses (can you say John Denver?) and when the whole puberty thing began to occur. A boy named Ervin had a crush on me and to prove it, he chased me down the hall one day at lunch time and when he caught up with me he punched me in the stomach so hard it sent me to the floor. When asked by the principle (and made to apologize) why he did that, Ervin said "I dunno". I never saw Ervin after grade school, but I only hope his social skills improved.

The year I turned 19 I was a single mom living on my own working at the best authentic pizzaria in town. Life was hard, lonely and unsure, but I had the most adorable daughter in the universe and she was my source of joy every morning when I'd wake up (or when she would, whichever happened first). Being a mom at such a young age forced me to grow up in many ways I never even realized would happen. I learned how to keep a household budget that year, and to this day use the exact same formula for budgeting.

The year I turned 23 I was crazily-happily married to my highschool sweet heart, and had two adorably cute daughters. Having had our own business for a year, we packed everything we could fit into our car and stored the rest in his dad's basement and headed to Palm Springs to open up another business there. It was a wild adventure and the business went very well, but we both became desperately homesick after a year and moved back to Washington. The first house we looked at to rent, was the very same house he lived in until he was 6 years old. We rented it, and lived there for a year.

The year I turned 26 was one of the happiest years ever. My third daughter was born, we were now renting the house that I'd lived in from the ages of 13-18, and life was just real good. It would be the last year of happy-bliss-world, as the following year brought the diagnosis of terminal cancer for my late husband, and everything in our world changed forever.

retro memories in time
When I look back over the years at where I was then, and look at where my own kids are now, it really does bring to life the words in James when he says "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) I remember each of those years of my life like it was yesterday, but realize how long ago it really was. While it 'seems like yesterday' for me, I also realize that in no time at all, all of my kids will be grown up and on their own and I'll be sitting here thinking "wow, where did that time go?". It really does zip by very very fast, especially when you're so busy living life.

It's easy for most mothers to look back and think "Oh I wish I could have done this differently" or "I wish I would have never made that choice" and beat themselves up for hard lessons they've learned as they've raised up their kids. The thing is, it's very hard work and very few of us ever do it without any big mistakes. Looking back and only seeing the things we could have or should have done differently is really just a losing deal, because they'll always stand out like a sore thumb and aside from hopefully learning from them, there is nothing we can do about them. When I look back over the last quarter century I like to look for the shining spots, the times I laughed so hard I cried and my face hurt, the times one of my kids did something so incredibly cool that I just wanted to squish them with hugs, and the times I have been so proud as they each made good decisions when making bad ones would have been so much easier. When I look back and realize I have been a mother now for more than half my life, in some ways that seems very strange to me, and in other ways it seems perfectly normal.

I turn 45 at the end of this year, and approaching this age has had a bit of a strange affect on my emotions. I find myself looking back a lot, and find myself not entirely comfortable with the fact that I am not a spring chicken any more. In my mind I guess I still feel like I did when I was 20, but my body is sending an entirely different message that starts out with "Dear Mrs. Middle Aged, welcome to the change of life and things not working the way they once did". I don't like those words, but that's what they say. It's been an awesomely incredible amazing 45 years (minus life's deepest sorrows that are inevitable), and if my vapor is up tomorrow, I can genuinely say it's been a blessed ride. If I get another 45, I'll look forward to being old too, and watching all my grandbabies grow up and start families of their own.

Either way, life is truly a vapor and we'd all do well to invest deeply in the lives of the people around us as much as humanly possible, while we're able. The legacy we leave behind will be determined by how we spent this fleeting time, so we would do well to make the best of it.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe