They bought two chairs.
Not just accent chairs to compliment the large glass doors that overlook my mom’s flower beds. They bought two chairs for themselves. Recliners, no doubt. Slanted ever so slightly around a little round table and facing the television.
They struck me when I walked in…those two chairs sitting there. I had been home before. Home for holidays and home for funerals and home for family. But there had never been two recliners. And there had never been that feeling of passing time quite so intensely as there was in that moment.
The last time I saw two recliners like that was at my Grandparents’ house. Just before everything they owned was pulled into the garage and sold…and not long before they both reclined together in a field across the highway.
For thirteen years, my mom and dad have been among the most amazing of grandparents. But they had never been like my grandparents. Never the white hair or the thick-soled shoes or the polyester pants with that perfect crease down the middle. Heck, even their reading glasses are disguised behind designer brands and seamless transition lenses.
But there is no denying those two chairs and what they symbolize for me.
Time is not slowing down anytime soon.
The trees I helped plant in my childhood are towering over the house. The words “decades” and “twenty years ago” fall easily from my lips. And I am in disbelief at the little faces in the box of ‘old’ photographs that look strikingly similar to the little faces that now call me Mommy.
When I’m in the muck and mire of motherhood I don’t notice time. I notice the dishes piling up in the sink. And I notice the laundry turning over surprisingly fast. But I don’t see my boy’s hair growing longer and thicker until he wakes up with matted bed-head. And I don’t realize just how long my girl’s legs have gotten until I watch her wash her hands in the sink without standing on tippy toes. And frankly, my parents’ aging happens at a safe unseen distance of 800 miles. Out of sight, out of mind.
But when I come home. When things slow down. When I sit in the new recliner and watch the ghosts of my childhood run out in the field and bike down the driveway and jump off the landing, something gets caught in my throat and I realize that we are all part of this slow decline of age.
Or recline, if you will.
We scurry now. From activity to activity. From school year to school year. From season to season. But one day, sooner than we think, the pitter patters will gradually lessen. The “Mommy” will turn to “Mom.” The school bus will transform into a car. And the bedroom that once held a crib will move into an apartment across town. And the life we now think is wrapped carefully in a 5-point-harness in our hands will slip through our fingers into a weedy overgrown sandbox.
I don’t know about you, but I’m just not sure how to feel about it all.
In one sense, I am terrified. I am terrified at the thought of growing old or losing my parents or watching my kids leave. I panic at the thought that I only have thirteen summers left with my Pirate Princess or that my boy will one day tower over me and give his hugs and kisses to someone else.
In another sense I look forward to the days of the two chairs. Sitting back with my feet up next to the one I love, looking out over a lifetime of memories and smiling at a life well-lived. The panic subsides when I think of that day. It’s replaced with a deep, calming joy that I can’t even imagine yet.
Yes. There will be heartache along the way. There will be absences. There will be failures. But as time rolls on, so do the incredible memories. Filling up that shoebox with photographs.
They bought two chairs. But those chairs represent six decades and nine people with beautiful lives and experiences and stories all their own. Stories past and stories to come.
I have no desire to freeze time. But I do hope that one day in many (many, many, many) years, my children will come to my house and sit in my recliners and think fondly of their lives. And our lives. And their grandparents’ lives. And I hope they will not fear the future. Or growing older. Or facing death. Rather, I hope they will embrace each season and make it beautiful so that one day they too will have a shoebox overflowing with wonderful memories…