They’re gone now.
I stood in the driveway and watched my grown children drive off into the distance. I looked down the road until I could no longer see their vehicles.
“They live way too far away from me,” I said to myself. “When did they grow up and become parents of small children? Shouldn’t that be me?”
I slipped back inside the house and just walked through the rooms for no reason in particular. I was just missing them already and looking for signs of their having been here. There were pillows on the floor where they had been tossed from the couch and a few stuffed animals lying around where the children had been playing.
I smiled at the little fingerprints on my mirror. I didn’t wipe them off. I thought back to the time when I tried so hard to keep the fingerprints off the mirrors and doors when my children were small. Now, I wanted the tiny fingerprints to stay so that I could see them there just a little longer.
As I walked around the house, I picked up a few items on the floor and straightened a chair. I decided to sort through the toy box and I found a flying dinosaur, a skeleton, and a Frankenstein that had mysteriously taken up residence in my box of toys.
I walked into the kitchen and there on the back of the sink was a bottle brush that had been left behind. “Ah, even Tessa left something behind,” I announced. Well, I suppose she had help since she was just four months old.
“I wonder what else has been left behind,” I said out loud to no one in particular. My husband heard me and joined the search for things left behind.
It seems like every time our family gets together something is left behind. When I call my children to tell them what they have left behind I am usually told, “Oh, just bring it when you come,” “Keep it for me until I come back the next time,” or “Hey, I really need that, would you mind mailing it to me?”
“Oh look! Here’s Tegan’s tooth,” I said to my husband as I picked up a ziplock bag with her name engraved on it. Tegan had a loose tooth and had managed to wiggle it out earlier in the day. “Now, she can’t put it under her pillow. I wonder if it will work if I put it under my pillow. The Tooth Fairy is going to be so confused!” I laughed.
I walked on around the house finding more things that had been left behind: a toothbrush, a ponytail band, an angel figurine, a pie pan, a frozen teething ring in the freezer, and last but not least the insides of a turkey fryer.
I was really kind of enjoying myself. It gave me something to do, after they left, to take my mind off of missing them.
Then my eyes teared up as I noticed the baby outfit beside the sink where it had been left to dry after spots had been scrubbed out of it. The little outfit, now stain free, reminded me of the trip to the emergency room with Rowan due to a gash on her head that was caused from a flower pot pulled over by her curious little fingers.
“Hmmm, things left behind…” I pondered to myself. It seems there is one thing that is left behind on every occasion. Memories are always left behind, I reasoned, and what a precious thing good memories are to us. I thought how each item left behind reminded me of the person it belonged to and the story surrounding it. The insides of the turkey fryer that was left behind reminded me of the delicious Thanksgiving meal that we all enjoyed. The empty pie pan reminded me of Katie’s delicious pies. The angel figurine reminded me of the white elephant gift exchange game that we play every year. Even the bad memory of Rowan’s injury reminded me of how frightened I was at the sound of her cry. It is a bad memory that turned into a good one as it reminded us of how precious little Rowan is to us.
Memories happen even if we aren’t aware of it. The stressful and difficult moments often become memories that we look back on later with laughter and joy. They are the stories of the future when one day someone will say, “Remember when … ?”, and everyone laughs.
Then, of course, there are some memories that need to be left behind. The memories of past hurts, unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger should be left behind forever. These are the things that we should never keep until the next time, mail back, or bring with us to our next visit.
Yes, I stood in the driveway and watched my grown children drive off into the distance and I remembered my own parents once doing the same thing. I never knew then that I would one day be the one waving from the driveway and feeling my heart drive off down the road. That’s because there is one more thing besides memories left behind … and that is love.
As Elizabeth Stone said, “To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
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