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by Dana Vander Lugt
I’m a sucker for all things nostalgic — old photo albums, worn notes or ticket stubs. I can’t resist the “On this Day” Facebook pictures that pop up, showing me my posts and memories from this day just two, five, eight years ago. I’m a slow, distracted organizer because I’m constantly pausing inside drawers and cupboards to reminisce, to remember.
I tend to be better at hanging on than letting go.
Ever watched someone do this when water skiing? They’re no longer sturdy on their feet, but toppled forward, being dragged along by their arms, a face full of lake water.
I find myself doing this with seasons of life. I get comfortable, get accustomed, get used to the way things are — the ages my kids are at, the activities that fill our days, the rhythms we find ourselves in. And then seasons change, the kids get older, and I find myself still holding the rope, drinking too much murky lake water.
It happens especially in the summer — when I’m at my most nostalgic, when my camera is the busiest, when I have the greatest freedom over our calendar. When I have the greatest expectations about how things are supposed to be. Or how they’ve been in the past.
There were the summers of babies, when naps governed my days — demanded that we slow down, stay in one place for stretches of time. There were the summers of early rising toddlers, settling on the couch with cartoons and blankies until I was able to schlep everyone out to play at the park, beach, or pool. Little sleepy heads bobbing in booster seats on the ride home.
And now my kids are a bit older, busier — and it’s summer baseball, taxiing, sleepovers, and puppy training. It’s balancing their push for independence with my pull for structure. It’s my oldest moving toward middle school and resisting the things my five-year-old still loves — needing permission, prodding, and space to discover that it’s still okay to play, to build a sandcastle or to run through a splash pad.
That mellow refrain of Turn, Turn, Turn, from Ecclesiastes (and The Byrds) keeps repeating in my head: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…”
These words are often sung or repeated in a comforting, mellow tone, but aren’t they unsettling? The idea that things keep on turning, that life is forever changing, that the comfort of sameness is rare and is not to be our resting place?
Lately, I’ve been feeling off balance from holding on too tight. But writing it down, whispering it in a prayer, confessing it aloud to a friend allows me a little to space to lament. It allows me to feel a smidge of melancholy, even on the brightest of summer days. It allows permission to let go of that rope, climb (or get clumsily pulled) back in the boat, wrap warm towels around myself and the boys, and turn my focus to the horizon.
Dana VanderLugt teaches English to middle school and Hope College students. She blogs at www.stumblingtowardgrace.com.