For some reason the memories of my childhood that are the most crystal for me are those of my adolescent and teenage years. As an almost seven year old little girl, my parent's had loaded me and my three siblings up into the back seat of a 65 Ford Mustang and driven us across the continental U.S. from Detroit to California, for a job relocation. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company, and they had decided to send us from the land of snow and auto parts, to the land of sunshine and sea breezes. In my memories, the move was magical.
My recollections of living in Warren, a little suburb of Detroit are few, but most of them are lined with snowsuits and images of my older brother some 5 years my senior "walking" me to school through the winter snow while pelting me from the rear with a carefully crafted arsenal of snowballs. I can recall the extra time spent at the beginning of each school day engaged in mastering the subject of Snow gear Removal 101. I have a mystical memory of a field trip to woods near my elementary school, where my mind’s eye tells me my mother was in attendance. Truth, or conjured, I cannot say. I have also heard rumor that as a toddler, I rolled canned goods at my younger brother, hoping to impede his progress in learning to walk, and that later he took the scissors to my ear, perhaps to repay my earlier abuses. I maintain that if this story bears any truth, that I was simply preparing for a bright and prosperous future in bowling, and that somehow I have been robbed of a professional career that could have been. It has also been told, that when I was yet an infant in my crib, my older sister had to pat my bottom to sleep each and every night, in order to keep me from wailing my household into despair, with my bedtime rants. Knowing myself as I do now, I will not question the validity of this tale, but must say, "Sis, if you are reading, I love you, and a million thanks for saving my life!" Finally, I remember my mother escorting me to the doctor's office when a screw on the swing set won an ill-matched bout with my eye, and stitches were required. These are the extent of my pre-sunshine recollections. What I do not remember is my dad, and though I know he was there, working hard, and doing exactly what fathers of his generation did, he does not appear in my memory bank until the land of swimming pools warms my frostbitten memories.
As a mother, it concerns me the depths of what my children may have forgotten, or whether their sweetest memories are hidden away from them like long packed away children's story books. I became a mother at 21, having four beautiful blonde children in the short period of six years, a son and then three daughters. A little more than five years later another blonde son was added to our family. Life was full of New Year’s Day trips to the ocean to watch dad surf and walk in the sand, and each child being tucked in and prayed for and then sung a lullaby at bed time. Our first tiny house had a backyard twice as big as the house, with a bamboo forest where they played hide and seek, and a wooden play set that Grandma and Papa had erected in the backyard. Daddy fell asleep at family gatherings and we teased him by quietly putting a stuffed toy on his stomach, and then taking photographs to be displayed at the next holiday. There were walks in the park, and fiesta birthday parties, and the general joy of being a family.
When my youngest son was not yet three, we lost his beloved brother and father to the ocean that they both loved so dearly, and in many ways I began to disappear as well. It is amazing how my identity had entwined itself so tightly around this man and boy, and only by the very present grace of God, did I maintain the understanding that my beautiful daughters and young son needed me. I loved my children with all of my heart, and wanted to give them the very best, but somehow instead of taking the pieces of my shattered heart to the God I had always trusted, I tried to tuck them away, ashamed of my own brokenness. My heart wandered, looking for healing in places where none could be found, and clinging to God with one hand, while I shook my fist at him with the other. By my daughters teen years I had let my faith in God slip out the back door like an unwanted party guest, and the Christ-centered home that their father and I had so carefully cultivated, became a home of shattered hearts and broken dreams. In my lack of faith, God was still faithful, and gently, lovingly, he reminded me of the woman that he designed me to be, and the promises that I had made hand in hand with their father, to dedicate our children to Him. He restored my hope and my desire to again build a family that shines with loving-kindness, joy, and a sense of being valued.
Now, as I see the wounds that these amazing children still bear, I wonder just how many I inflicted with the sharp edges of my once shattered heart. If for me, it is not the beautiful days of being a little girl that most shine in my mind, but rather the awkward years of being a gawky freckled red-haired teen, then perhaps their broken teen years are also what threaten still to steal their joy. I long for them to recall the lullaby’s, the crisp breeze of an early morning on the beach, a snuggle on the couch with mom and dad; life in the land of sun and sea breezes. I cannot undo the brokenness inflicted by their losses, nor by my own hurt, but I have the opportunity daily, for as long as I am blessed to walk this earth with these amazing individuals I call my children, to show them unmeasured grace and value, the humility of understanding that no words of apology cover my failures, and countless acts of love that are due them just because, they are my children.