Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Whirlwind of the Past

Sometimes I have a night when sleep evades me and my mind dwells on the past. Not in a morbid way, regretting sadnesses or mistakes. Just contemplating the many years and trying to see a pattern, a plan in it. There was a bit  of chaos in the past 25+ years, and since I know we weren't behind the wheel, I'm assuming God was.

But when I look back at the children's early years, raising them, school and t-ball and homeschooling and moving again and again. Girl Scouts and Christmas trips. The discipline and the tears, the math and the fun field trips, the squeezing into the car with a dog or two -- all of it seems like a whirlwind. If you've read Dante's Inferno and remember the level of hell where the lovers suffer, it's a little like that -- looking back at the decades of my life with my family is like viewing a whirlwind, and then stepping into the whirlwind. It's fast, chaotic, almost furious, I long to catch a glimpse of something tangible, but each image flits past. In the rushing images of the past, I try to reach out and grasp a firm hold on each child, so I don't lose them, but it's all a mirage.
not all of these are mine!
I felt sad last night, thinking of those years as so fleeting and so vague. Perhaps I was too busy? Too occupied frantically trying to hold things together? I was working so hard to make sure each child had a good education, ate well, had enriching activities, spent lots of time outside, had friends, used his or her imagination, took the SAT, went off to college. Then I drew a deep sigh of accomplishment and turned my attention to the next one in line. And before I knew it, and after years that seemed both long and fast, it's over. (Almost.)

If you've never read the short story, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," you should. An old lady on her death bed rehashes and relives her life, and she has alternating feelings of accomplishment, failure, and longing to do it all again. I always squirmed when I read that story because I know she is a pathetic character, but I feel a connection with her. I would go back and do it all again. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I would. To have the children little again? I would do that. To hold them in my arms as babies. To wash their clothes and make their pancakes and mix their bottles and vacuum their rooms and buy them snow boots. I wish I could do it all and know that each deed is not tedious but a gem. Of course, it's only a gem in retrospect. If I were doing it all again -- all of it -- it would be tedious again. Perhaps that's part of the curse.

I need to shake these thoughts out of my head because we're starting on a new part of life, a fresh start with the children (nearly) out of the house and pursuing their own wonderful dreams. And wonderful they are! But I miss them. Mostly I feel I did not adequately get to know them while I had them. I watched them, oh, I watched them. I do know them well. But I never let them know that I knew them -- I don't think I let them realize that they were known and desperately valued. Not enough.

For the young mothers out there, I cannot tell you to do it differently. You just do it. Try to tuck away memories in photos or mementos or family jokes and private memories only you know. Engage your children in real conversations. I spent too much time teaching them. I should have spent more time just talking.

Eventually I fell asleep, and this morning the sunlight made things feel better. If my children are reading this, I love you and miss you so very much. Run after those dreams, and when you have those precious grandbabies, let me squeeze them tight, let me talk and not teach, tell them silly stories. Live your lives more slowly than I did. May your whirlwinds not turn so fast.

A friend posted this on her blog, and I copy it here. The quote is from Naomi Nye.

"There is a Thai saying: ‘Life is so short, we must move very slowly,’ ….
Being busy has become our calling card, our sign of success, our obsession—
but poetry doesn’t want us to be busy. 
When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. 
Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause."

A rapidly moving swirl. Viewing my past with glances. I want better for the next decades of my life. May God bless me with a slower pace.


  1. I do the same thing when I wake at night. But I realize we can't make time slow down or go back. We have to treasure our kids where they are now (even if that's far away!) and pray like crazy for them each day. We can't do it over, but we can have peace knowing we'll spend eternity together. I don't know how parents can bear it if they don't have that hope. Tearing up. Better go. :)

  2. Sometimes it is hard to slow down and just enjoy the moment. It is what I aim for. : )

  3. You'll get to do it over again when you have grans. When I read my granny's diaries during the time she lived with us I almost felt nauseous reading over the details of my family's crazy-busy life. I didn't EVER want to be that busy and I don't think we did whirl and spin too much. Kids need time to crawl into laps and laps have to be available, so remember to sit when you are a granny. You did a wonderful job organizing and guiding your children. No regrets. A lovely pondering though, good girl.

  4. Granny Weatherall --- haven't thought about that story in years! Lovely thoughts here. We often get lost in the busy-ness of the everyday. Grandparent-hood is indeed very different.


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