The elderly woman shuffled down the aisle, pausing at the end of our pew as she buttoned up her coat to brace herself against the winter cold.
She watched as our toddler lunged across his father’s lap to topple a stack of hymnals, nearing knocking his already-screaming baby brother to the floor. I was trying vainly to scoop up four coats, four hats, three baby toys and – somehow – one small shoe. Gritting my teeth as people glared at our less-than-graceful exit, I caught her eyes as she lingered.
“You have a beautiful family,” she said, smiling. “I remember what those busy days were like. I had six kids myself.”
She waggled six fingers my way with a grin as she turned towards the door: “SIX!”
. . .
I sprinted out of my parents’ kitchen almost as quickly as I’d raced in, in search of a pacifier. One boy was hollering on the monitor, or another was calling for a cuddle – I don’t remember. But as the rest of the family lounged around the Sunday breakfast table, savoring the post-holiday calm and a hot cup of coffee, my mother looked up at me and smiled sweetly, sadly.
“You don’t believe it now, but you’ll have all the time in the world again some day. You won’t know what to do with yourself.”
Her words pulsed in my head as I loped across the house to the crying children. Surely she was right, but from where I stood, the promise of time all to myself seemed like a luxury I vaguely remembered from the past but couldn’t imagine for the future. Someday.
. . .
“This Christmas card is the best one yet,” F declared as he flopped next to me on the couch, both of us exhausted from the bath/bedtime circus.
I flipped open the picture of the Magi crossing the desert to read a handwritten note from a dear family friend from back home:
Your Christmas letter was fun to read – whew! You remind me of the time I was your age with kids running around the house, but you know it’s a ‘wonderful life.’ The photo is priceless – thank you for sending it. Those two little guys look so huggable; if they were near me I would have to give them a big hug…I couldn’t resist it.
As the baby fussed in his bassinet and his older brother sang himself to sleep next door, I closed my eyes and wondered what it would feel like to be a mother on the other end of these days. Alone in a quiet house. Echoes and memories to keep me company.
. . .
Sure, the stories make me hug my babies tight, thankful for the gift of now, no matter how tiring it seems.
But they also teach me of the shades and seasons of motherhood: the years I will parent them up close and the many more I will love them from afar. Someday I will be the one smiling fondly at the rowdy young family, nostalgic for the fullness of those days.
In fact I will be the older, wiser mother for far longer than I will be the rookie I am today. God willing, more of my life will be spent on the other end.
So what does that mean for the mother I am now?
I imagine I’d tell myself the same things I’ve been told.
The days are long but the years are short. They’ll be grown and gone before you know it. You’ll have all the time in the world again someday.
So slow down. Chill out. Laugh more. Worry less.
Forgive yourself. And them. And all the others muddling along beside you. You’re doing the best you can, and it’s probably better than you realize.
And when you blink, it’ll all have changed.
So thank God for now.