Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent Photo a Day: Remember

Humans have always used aids to help us remember things. We pretty much invented writing just so we could write stuff down so that we wouldn’t forget it. Cave paintings are, if you stop and think about it, merely the precursors to modern-day Post It notes and Dry Erase boards. I’d bet that every single person reading this has a junk drawer somewhere in their house (probably the kitchen) whose contents consist almost entirely of pens, pencils, and stacks of Post It Notes and notepads. I always have pens in my purse so if a thought occurs to me, I can write it down before it floats away into the ether. We make notes to ourselves on napkins, the backs of envelopes, desk blotters, and random scraps of paper, all just to help us remember. 

Our homes are also filled with things, with objects, that help us remember stuff. We hang photographs on the wall and keep them in albums to help us remember important moments like graduations and weddings. We collect mementos and souvenirs from our travels: a carved trinket from here, a silver spoon from there, a ceramic something from somewhere else. We save ticket stubs, wedding invitations, theatre playbills, and greeting cards.

But for most parents, the most meaningful objects in our homes that help us to remember are the random bits of artwork that our children have made over the years. A painted mug, a paper Santa, a worksheet from school. They help us remember that frozen moment in time when our children were that certain age. Children change so quickly, right before our eyes, so we desperately cling to each reminder of where they are right now. My favorite bits of art are the ones that capture the size of their tiny hands and feet, because I know that as soon as I blink they won’t be that small any more.

When I look at my kids, sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that they’ll ever be adults. But then I look back at my cherished bits of art and I remember how much they’ve already grown, and I know that before I know it they will be grown and independent. Rodgers and Hammerstein expressed it beautifully in the lyrics to the song “I Know It Can Happen Again” from their little-known musical, Allegro:

Starting out so foolishly small, it’s hard to believe you will grow at all.
It’s hard to believe that things like you can ever turn out to be men.
But I’ve seen it happen before, so I know it can happen again.
Food and sleep and plenty of soap, molasses and sulfur and love and hope,
The winters go by, the summers fly, and all of a sudden you’re men!
I have seen it happen before, so I know it can happen again. 
Someday my children will be grown, and their tiny hands and feet will be only a memory. But I will still have their artwork to help me remember.


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