Friday, May 25, 2012

Remembering


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Earlier his week I attended an end-of-the-school year presentation with Katherine's first grade class. They sang songs for us, we ate cake, and then we watched an i-video documenting their best moments throughout the school year. As Katherine's teacher turned down the lights she warned us that putting together the video had been a fairly emotional experience and I thought to myself, Great. If the class video is a tear jerker for normal people, than for a pregnant lady this is going to be like watching puppies get euthanized! Sure enough, within five seconds of seeing the baby faced first-day-of-school photographs I was dabbing leaky tears with a frosting-smeared cake napkin. They started off the year looking like Kindergartners. Now they look like second graders. What happened during those ten months in between?

I think it's important to spend time looking at photographs and trying to deliberately acknowledge "the end of an era." Because while life is virtually impossible to capture in a jar and there isn't a photograph, anecdote, or journal entry that can take you back to exactly "how it was," remembering has a purpose. It may be a sweeter, romanticized version of what The Real Thing felt like, but that's all we have left. And if we don't take time to be still and think about what it was like back then, what it was like to have our little girl starting first grade, we forget what it is that we hoped to take with us.

What do we hope to take with us? 

Memory snapshots of tooth-less grins?
Quirky behaviors or phrases that they have long since out grown?
A general feeling that there was something lovable about that child during that phase of life?
A sense of accomplishment, as in we started there and now look where we are!
A better understanding of what really mattered?

This afternoon I was thinking of the final illustration from Shel Silverstein's children's story, The Giving Tree. It took the boy in the story a lifetime to understand what was truly important. It wasn't until old age had stripped him down that he remembered to sit for awhile and remember what had once been precious. I've always found The Giving Tree to be a very sad, cautionary tale. It's a hard truth that you can never go back.

Katherine's adorable little baby teeth are gone and a couple of unseemly buck teeth have taken over. All those frustrating afternoons with her curled in my lap trying to sound out the word the over and over again like a wicked stutter have gone the way of the wind. She now knows the word the because she is a reader, and these past couple of days she announces to everyone she meets that she is a second grader! And since we can't go back, I feel buckets of gratitude for the way a class slideshow allowed me to return to those places for a few minutes. Re-visiting helps. It allowed me to re-pack my suitcase of what I'm taking with me, and as I set the table for our end-of-the-school year tea party, I made sure my camera was charged and waiting. There are more happy times to gather along the way.

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