We all bring childhood memories with us that make us who we are in our adulthood. We choose which memories will shape, sustain or sully us as we move from adolescence and beyond. It’s sad when we only focus on the negative and not take into consideration what our parents tried to do in order to encourage our intellectual growth and spiritual formation.
I grew up in an environment that I did not appreciate at the time. Some of it was not to be appreciated, but much of it was rich in love, encouragement and fortitude. Because I am the eldest, I remember the most.
Certainly that has advantages as well as disadvantages, like most things in life. One particular memory is that our house was always messy. Toys-backwards R-Us exploded messy. With 9 people living under one roof, several of whom wore diapers, things were bound to get crazy in the home making department. The frustrating part for me is that I am a self-proclaimed neat freak. I would get all upset and twitchy if the floors were sticky, toys were out-of-place (a frequent occurrence) or if I wasn’t in a neat, orderly environment.
As the years went on and my siblings grew, the messes diminished. It was just a natural development that with growth of the babies, came less toys, and less mess as more of us grew up and out of the house. I often wonder if my mom, who so seemed to enjoy babies, heaved a sigh of relief when my brother (21 years my junior) said his wedding vows, packed up his room and awarded my parents the long earned title of empty-nesters.
Maybe my parents were secretly neat freaks who had been trapped in a house with 7 children, various and sundry pets, and they just dealt with the messy chaos. One day I stopped in to visit (they live about 20 minutes from us) and my mom walked me back to their bedroom to show me something (a quilt, a book, a new sweater. It’s anyone’s guess what she’ll come up with!)
My parents have been living alone for many years now, but what I saw made my heart skip a beat and my eyes sting. In the corner of their bedroom were 2 pair of slippers.
One his. One hers.
Side by side,
Neat, quiet and just waiting for tired feet. Feet that had seen 40 plus years of parenting, grand-parenting, and some seriously messy houses. Feet that had stood for hours in front of a stove making meals that picky children wouldn’t eat, and later that thankless teens would gobble down and ask for more.
Feet that walked the floors for maybe miles with crying babies and sick children. Those same feet would push the accelerator of a custom cruiser station wagon (the old 70’s kind with snazzy wood paneling) mile after mile, state after state so we could see grandparents. And both pairs of feet, so desperately needing to wear comfy slippers and just longing to be propped up for a rest, now have only their own messes to clean. It must be so nice.
And maybe, just maybe a little bittersweet.
I was encouraged by such a simple thing as slippers. How seeing them so neat and orderly proved to me that life moves fast, messy houses don’t mean squat because babies grow up and out and someday you can have a perfectly neat home. Maybe I place too much emphasis on what’s not important now, and I need to think about leaving the messes and making the memories. Someday I’ll have the clean house (really Lord?!) and the orderly slippers in the corner and what will really matter will be what I did between now and time I wear the slippers.