Monday, February 12, 2018

What Time Forgot

Our girls gave us a Legacy Box for Christmas which, if you're not familiar, is a company that transfers your old media to DVD or memory stick or both. We've been toting around a box of VHS tapes lovingly referred to in our house as 'the baby' tapes since the 90's, and then we also have 'the Europe years' in the form of 8mm.

We packaged up eight VHS tapes and two of the 8mm about a month ago, and they arrived newly formatted on our doorstep late last week. I was excited to watch the 'baby' tapes because we purchased our first video camera when Daughter1 was six months old and now her son is six months old. I was so eager to see the shared DNA live and I'm sure I'll write more about that another day.

We've watched these early newborn days periodically through the years so I knew some of what was there. The sweetness of my baby girls on the screen always makes my heart flip but I know to be ready for that when the tape rolls.

What I wasn't ready for was the sight of my teenagers. Young teenagers. My then fifteen year old daughter practicing a speech for school on the subject of ballet. In FRENCH! And it's wonderful.

I don't remember that day.

It was just another ordinary day, school-homework-dinner prep happening...not unlike hundreds of other ordinary days lived yet this one is captured and marked. There's my youngest looking back at me, age thirteen, blue eyes dancing behind brand new wire framed lenses. She's got a Gameboy in hand and that look of perpetual expectancy on her face, the one she always wore that said Life! Bring it! 

I'm there too...with my teenagers on the beach at Normandy our hair blowing wild in the wind...smiling for the camera from a narrow side street in a fairy tale village an ocean a family room in England recording the happy teenage chatter of my girls and their friends as they sit in a comfortable heap atop my too big American furniture.

Ordinary days. Where time was passing and you let it because you had no way to say slow down. Didn't really consider if you even wanted to. Life with children is about forward motion -tomorrow, next week, next year, college, infinity and beyond.

Fifteen years doesn't sound like such a long time ago, but there it is pirouetting across a kitchen where I cracked ice cubes from a tray, finally learned the metric system, and converted oven temps from Fahrenheit to centigrade without batting an eye.

The days of mothering babies I remember pretty well. In those early years one day is not that different from the next. Lots of days felt long and you were often overly tired, but your love for this tiny human was big and bursting, simple and obvious.

Teenagers are complex. They test you. In many ways they ARE you which makes you smile and sigh but also makes you acknowledge things about yourself you'd just as soon leave unexamined. I watch these snippets of ordinary life today, years and miles from when and where they happened and I think wow, we grew. All of us. Not just my teenagers, but me... as a mother and a person.

There are big moments in the life of a teenager, occasions celebrated and remembered...ballet recitals, musical performances, birthdays, graduations. We tell ourselves this is the stuff of life, and in some ways it is. But as I watch my teens on videotape turned memory stick playing on a smart TV that didn't exist fifteen years ago I know it was the 'just another ordinary days' that mattered most.

The everyday interactions between a mother and daughter. A speech practiced at the kitchen counter while supper is fixed. Hanging out in the back yard on a blue sky day. Talking about nothing and everything as we drove to piano lessons every single week. Quiet fears whispered in the bedroom she loved with the chintz curtains she hated. Holding hands while we cross a busy London street because she knew it meant something even if she couldn't articulate at the age of 16 what that something was. Only that it was something to hold your mother's hand when the world says you're too big.

Mothers of teenagers-hold your kids hands every now and then. They look all big and grown up on the outside but inside they sometimes feel so small. Holding your hand puts life into perspective. Yours too.

Know that you have the immense privilege of being part gate keeper, part bridge builder, part cheerleader as your teenager navigates the sometimes dark and scary, but mostly beautiful chasm between childhood and full fledged adult living.

When I look at my girls on the other side of the video screen I remember with exquisite clarity how much I loved them in the teen years. Like when they were babies only more so, something you cannot imagine is possible when they actually are babies.

A hundred tiny moments run through my brain and I think back to how these now grown women not so long ago slept in a bedroom upstairs, came to breakfast in their pjs, played guitar in the stairwell nook, walked with me to town where we ate iced buns at a sidewalk cafe. How they talked of life and love and hopes and dreams in a far off future they could only imagine.

How they amazed, entertained, frustrated, humored, and challenged me as we grew up side by each. How my life was blessed by a season of parenting people tell us to fear, and how God equips us as parents for whatever season we're living.

How in teaching my teenaged girls to be strong and brave I became a little bit stronger and braver too.


  1. I'm not crying.... Nope... Sniff.. Nope

  2. What a wonderful gift and one not only you but your daughters and their families will enjoy for years to come as they relive those forgotten moments of their past. And, isn't it through God's grace that we can say because I'm their mother, I too have grown and am stronger and better.

  3. Those ordinary days where they came home every day, slept upstarts every night and headed to school in the morning seem so long ago and I wish I had appreciated every second more. But, like you say at that age, it's about moving forward to the next thing. Beautiful words Joyce❤️

  4. Well, Joyce, this was just beautiful and while it wasn't written by me, it did almost make me teary eyed thinking back to those days with my own two. I've heard such great things about the Legacy Box, might need to do that myself. Happy Valentine's week!

  5. This was just the best thing I've read recently. It brought me to tears as I think about the few short years I have left with both my kids living at home. I feel the same way about the teen years. Some people dread it, but I have had the best time getting to know the personalities that my kids are growing into. Thanks for writing this! I'm going to share on my Friday Faves post.

  6. What a lovely look back on your girls' journeys to adulthood and look how far they have come. It's a lovely feeling when you capture a moment in the present and they just fill you with pride especially when you think "I helped to create that!" And yes it's hard when the nest is left empty but then (Hopefully) they start introducing new little ones and the process starts all over again.

  7. Oh, Joyce. This is an incredibly beautiful post. I had two girls also and I completely agree about the teen years. It seems as if they were over far too soon. Like you I am so thankful for those times and so blessed to see the women they have grown into being. Thank you so much for sharing your heart here.

  8. What a great gift you received. I've been wanting to do that and haven't had the guts to mail them off to someone in fear that I wouldn't see them again.

  9. That is an incredible gift but Joyce, your words paint such an amazing picture too. Your girls will enjoy reading and re-reading your blogs years from now. I have tears in my eyes from the love that oozes out of these lines.