Karen and I are coming to the end of a two week visit with my parents. We were visiting them last year just before the pandemic exploded into all of our lives, and, though we were visiting to deal with specific family obligations this time, it still felt somehow fitting that we came out of the pandemic year the same way that we entered. A bookend, of sorts.
I’m a bit of an unusual case, I suppose, in that my parents still live in the same home in which I spent my childhood. They bought this house when I was not even a year old, and enjoyed a decent amount of land to go with it. I remember as they built additions to it. Whenever I visit lately, I find myself spending time with the realization that I grew up in this house. I played in this yard. The house and property have evolved so much over the last 40-plus years (I don’t want to date myself too closely). There have been so many changes. Sometimes, when we visit, I can see snapshots of various time periods play out in my head, vividly. This is true all the more now that our children are asking me some variation of “tell us a story from when you were a boy!” And, into the way-back machine of my mind I travel.
Our visit this year included Father’s Day. The kids decided to make a gift for me. This isn’t the first time….they’ve been pleasantly crafty of late. They ran into the house the evening before, unable to wait, and dragged me outside to see what they had made. They had carefully composed a heart from selected rocks that they had painted, flowers that they had picked, and topped it with (of all things, but a nod to my obsessive-compulsive tendencies) a bottle of hand sanitizer. They had done this in the lawn behind the house.
It meant so much to me.
My parents have a huge back yard. The kids will run and play in it, weaving around various mini-gardens that are the endless hobby of my mother, for hours. When I was their age, we had an outside dog whose house was near the very spot where they had laid the heart for me. That very yard in which I had myself ran and played and had so many adventures with my father, so long ago. I could never have imagined that moment back then, but it seems now to be a marker of something sacred, a thin place…the closest I will know of multiple generations experiencing their lives on the same hallowed ground. I know that this is nothing new for some, but for me it was an epiphany, almost as though I was seeing myself as a child look forward through time to this moment.
I had difficulty putting into words why this gift meant so much, even as my daughter expressed sadness that she felt it wasn’t special enough (she inherited my perfectionism, the poor kid). They kept asking, and so I would do the only thing that I know to do in those moments. I would tell them stories of my childhood that happened in that very spot.
And they loved every moment of the telling, just as I did.
I wonder what they will look back on and remember fondly when they’re my age, and the thought that we are creating those memories now makes me feel outright reckless for not approaching every day with care to make them the best memories possible, because they, in turn, will tell their stories to someone.
Because our stories make us.
I’m thankful that there are more in the making.