Mine Your Own Material

The things we leave behind; there are so many. Some we leave happily by choice and others because we simply have to.

In 2006 I left the home that I raised my children in. I had remained in an abusive marriage far too long, but experienced mixed emotions about leaving. On one hand, I was desperate to get away from an alcoholic husband. On the other, I was leaving 18 years worth of memories behind. A lot of those memories were awful, but the ones of my kids growing up were priceless and far outnumbered the bad ones.

I knew for a long time that day would come, but nothing prepares you for the flood of emotions. Despite believing that it was the only healthy option left, I continued to second guess myself. I was anxious to make a fresh start, but terrified of the unknown. I knew that while familiar things can seem comforting, they can still be very bad choices.

There were so many things I wanted to take, but couldn’t. The roll top desk that we bought early in the marriage, the bookcase from my mother-in-law that housed my favorite stories, and the lighted Christmas village from my goddaughter. These were only a few items of a very long list.

Then there was the house itself. We worked long hours to get it ready and I invested my heart in preparing a nice home for my kids. My boys were one and three years old and my daughter wasn’t born yet. The marriage was already in trouble and I foolishly believed a new house would provide a new start.  Soon after moving in I realized this was pure fantasy.

After my departure, I managed to live without the house and all the things in it. I went on to make a new home that I grew to love, because it was truly mine and I found real peace there. However, it wasn’t until years later that I understood the connection to all the things I left behind.

Every item, large and small, had a memory attached to it.

They reminded me of a person, a place, or a recollection that had value for me. All these things together represented my past; my history.

Despite the bitter circumstances of my exit, I realized something important: we take our memories with us. Even though they’re often attached to inanimate objects, the invisible string that connects them is…well…invisible. It only exists in our minds, just like the memory. Although I no longer had these things in my possession, I could still feel the positive emotions they embody.

Now, when I drive past my old house, I don’t feel the intense sadness and loss that I did in the beginning. It’s just another home in that particular neighborhood. This change was possible because I took the happy memories with me and left the rest behind.

 

 

Where Do the Children Go?

My first thought when I scrolled onto this photo was,

“Where did the children go?”

Swings

My second (and immediate) thought was, “They grew up.”

Alas, we all have to do it. It often comes sooner than later for some folks. Children of families at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum tend to mature faster than more affluent kids. They’re the ones waiting tables poolside at the country club, while their more fortunate (?) classmates are ordering chicken salad Panini and fried mozzarella sticks. I inserted the question mark because, based on what I’ve seen, some of those “more fortunate” kids aren’t more fortunate at all. They tend to be sheltered with helicopter parents orchestrating every aspect of their lives. There’s a price for all this over-attention; children who are unprepared for the real world. They grow up believing that the good things in life will come to them based on who they are, instead of what they can offer. They’re not challenged in the same ways as their less affluent counterparts. Despite attending good schools and having the best resources, they lack emotional intelligence and maturity. Their world view is narrow and their thinking individualistic. When making choices they seldom consider the potential impact on others.

Conversely, the “less fortunate” group has to work harder for fewer benefits. They take part-time jobs for spending money and expenses like auto insurance and cell phone bills. Their families are usually larger with smaller paychecks, which means everyone gets a reduced slice of the pie. They have to borrow rather than buy things like cars and money to go to college. They work harder for less. Because of this they learn early on about the collective good versus the individual good. In other words, it’s not all about them.

Not all wealthy kids are spoiled and not all poor kids are responsible. There are exceptions to every rule. However, some children have to grow up too fast and others retain childish qualities into their golden years. Chili Davis was quoted as saying,

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”

So, my third and final thought is this:  the swings are empty because the kids grew old.