While taking down Christmas decorations today, I thought I would make the dreaded process more palatable by playing the Mama Mia soundtrack while I worked. All was going splendidly and my dance moves were on point when the ABBA song, “Slipping Through My Fingers” started to play. A lump formed in my throat as I listened to, no, heard the lyrics. In my hand, I held a glass Christmas ball with a tiny red handprint painted on the front. I set it down next to another ornament which holds a picture of two smiling toddlers and I am suddenly overwhelmed by the passage of time. I stare at the picture of my sons and wonder, did I take it? In my head I know I did, but in my heart, I can’t be sure. Did I cherish that moment with my two little boys wedged in one chair wiggling, laughing and deaf to my attempts to keep them still, or did I stress over trying to get the perfect Christmas picture? Did I remember to be present at the time in my life, when raising two little boys, was the best present of all?
These thoughts make me think about a young mother I saw walking into Target the other day carrying her little boy. His arms were wrapped tightly around her neck, his legs were wrapped around her waist and his two clunky shoes crossed at the ankles behind his mother’s back. For a few seconds, I felt the strength of that embrace and remembered when my own boys would wrap me in that same crushing hug. It might seem to an observer, they were hugging the breath out of me, but I knew the truth, those hugs were putting the life back in.
When my youngest went off to Kindergarten, I was shattered. This emotion surprised my husband as he thought I would be doing cartwheels and spending my first few weeks of freedom eating bon-bons and watching Ellen. In truth, I wasn’t done with that season of my life and was feeling bitter about having teachers fill my “mother” role for 7 hours a day. I knew my job was to let them go and let them grow, but still, I missed my boys. Really, I missed us! So I did what any mom with free time on her hands would do, I brought home a puppy.
My sweet Golden Retriever, Buddy, became my constant companion, loving me and keeping me company as I figured out the next stage of motherhood and began to explore my purpose outside of being a mother and a wife. Buddy gave me something to nurture and an opportunity to fill a void and, finally, I was able to close that chapter on my life. Over the years I have learned that Motherhood is a constantly evolving profession and forces growth and forward movement, even when one digs in her heels and resist. I have no doubt, I will look back on these school years with great fondness and will find it hard to close this chapter too. Buddy died a few years ago, but his ornament still hangs on our tree. As I look at it now and lay it next to the others to be stored until next Christmas, I begin to accept that it is a bittersweet experience to raise a child, even our furry ones some people call pets.
Now, as I wrap each ornament in tissue paper and stare at the sweet smiles contained in the frame, it certainly feels like time has “slipped through my fingers”. Upon reflection, I realize the ache I felt in my heart is not one of regret, but, it is for the desire to go back to when my boys were little, pause time, and feel those precious moments all over again. Someday, I’ll give my sons a box filled with every ornament they each picked out over the years to hang on their own trees. These ornaments range from “Baby’s 1st Christmas”, to Veggie Tales, to Monsters Inc., and various super hero’s and sports’ figures; each serves as a time stamp on their childhoods. Missing from those boxes, however, will be a glass ball with a little red handprint and a picture frame holding two grinning toddlers. These, I will hold back for myself and, just to be on the safe side, wrap them up in another layer of tissue paper. Because, when it comes to preserving memories, one can never be too careful!