I walked down the basement stairs of my childhood home to start the laundry as my mom or I had done for the past 50 years. As the wash got started, sentimental sounds came forth. The water still rinsed through a hose that once jumped out of the sink and on to the floor. (I think somehow I had been been responsible for that mishap…Oops)
I walked around the small, cement basement seeing the shadows of me and my friends playing dress up or grocery store in one corner, watching my mom teach me how to iron in another. I thumbed through dusty boxes that included some of my first record albums – the Beatles Blue and Red Albums, Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” (my first album ever).
On a small shelf, laid some rather unkempt magazines, notebooks, and a dusty old copy of the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook my mom used throughout the 60s and 70s. I opened one 5 x 8 leather 3-ringed notebook filled with yellowing lined paper. The top of one page was dated Oct 26, 1956. The next line read “Educational Psychology.” Notes were scribbled down the page. A reading list was folded and tucked into another page and a dog eared tab had a bunch of sentences in Spanish with notes and vocabulary.
Mom’s handwriting hadn’t changed much in all of these years. Funny to think of all the thing that happened in her 63 years of life since then, yet her handwriting remains the same. She was a student at Wayne State University in 1956, and she would soon marry my dad. A few years later, I was born. As I held her notebook, I felt such poignancy – the innocence, hope, optimism of a college student with her life’s journey ahead of her.
I felt deep love and pride to also see the tapestry of her life from that point on – the beauty and the heartbreaks, the good times and the very hard times she’s endured. Upstairs, at age 87 her body was showing it’s signs of age, but my mom’s inner strength, cheer and spirit, like her handwriting, haven’t changed much.
As I go through the challenges of seeing my mom grow old, challenges that many of us are dealing with right now, I asked myself: How do we stay grounded in love during both easy days and hard days? We are human. We make mistakes. We get caught up with emotions, insecurities, and we can make choices that sometimes hurt the ones we love the most. And sh*t happens. Unexpected surprises of all types and sizes wake us up.
Perhaps the key is to learn not to side step the pain or challenge while also not wallowing in it for too long, lest we get stuck in victimhood. At this darkest time of the year when soon light slowly returns, may we all take the time to tap into that deeper source of strength and love within us.
The last line of David Whyte’s poem Self Portrait says it so well:
I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God.
May we all remember how loved we are and how worthy we are. Life is a journey with each step an opportunity to grow and learn without judgment.