Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. –Laura Ingalls Wilder
I flew to St, Louis Monday night. My mother is very sick, near the end of her life. And there are suddenly all those difficult conversations and decisions that you are not ready for but have to come anyway. In the midst of all that, there are long days at the hospital and inexplicable waits to talk to this or that person and for more information. And, of course, the information that one would wish for is not available or is not sufficiently potent for the issues at hand.
But the lulls, at their best, offer some times of memory and reflection and perspective. And even, surprisingly, laughter. It occurred to me in the midst of all this that there can come a tenderness of remembering back.
I keep thinking of this studio portrait back at my mother’s house. My mother is posed between Peter and me. She looks young and confident and strong. Her hair is coiffed in that mid-1960’s way. I am on her right, about 5 years old, tow-headed, chubby and smiling a bit buck-toothed. Peter, about 3 years old, is on her left side, darker, and with an expression you can’t quite read. We are all dressed up in that way people used to then when they were going to church or taking an airplane trip.
I have always wondered what occasioned my mother’s having this portrait taken. And it startled me how naive we were about all that was before us.
But it also occurs to me that there is something gracious about being able to remember one’s childhood — to have an inkling and a clue what it was like — with the maturity and perspective that comes of years and of all the miles traveled. To catch that glimpse of the child-like… without all the childishness.
Wanda, the incredibly wonderful nurse yesterday, asked me what I did in Philadelphia. I said that I am a pastor. She said she was a church-goer and that it must be hard for me to have all this happening at this time of year. It is a busy time of year. But maybe Christmas is a good time to recover some of one’s childhood.
For Advent today, try and remember something you have forgotten from your childhood. Maybe something about Christmas…
And spend some time thinking about the difference between childishness and childlike.
Extra-credit: Read Psalm 139 at least a couple of times today, with significant times in between each reading. What is God saying to you?