Greetings from somewhere high in the sky over the Pacific Ocean. If you’re following on Facebook and Instagram, you might know that Dave and I just spent a whirlwind 36 hours in Oregon, to be a part of an 80th birthday celebration for both of his parents. We’re on our way back now, and naturally, I am reflecting on so much that happened, in such a short time.
I have concluded that as a parent, there are actually two types of “get aways” from your kids. The practical kind where you go to work, run errands, or squeeze in some little treat like quick coffee with a friend. This sort of “getting away” is hard for me, because I typically do not return to my posse as much refreshed as I do stressed. And then on top of that I feel guilty because I did just “get out” and I somehow feel pressure to return with a skip in my step like I just took a cruise or something.
The other kind of getaway is set apart because there is some element of refreshing or inspiration in it. It might be as simple as a walk in nature, or watching a really good movie that makes you think. It might be weekend retreat, or a good worship experience. As parents, we need more of these.
This trip, busy as it was, fits in the second category of getaways. It was full of happy reunions with relatives and friends, with catching up on years of life, and questions about health and babies, and jobs and life. The 80th birthday celebration culminated in a gathering of 36 people at Dave’s sister’s house, where we served a wonderful dinner of salmon and sweet potatoes, rice and salad, followed by a fabulous cake from the famous Beaverton Bakery. After dinner we all gathered–the relatives and friends, for a short home-spun program complete with our very own men’s quartet, Dave speaking words of gratitude and blessing to his parents, and the siblings playing music and leading us all in song. Hymms and gospel songs, of course.
It was a busy visit, and as soon as I took a big nap as soon as I boarded the airplane. Yet I know that I am returning home energized and inspired. Having left the kids at home, I found myself thinking of them a lot. Comparing one of them to this uncle, another to that cousin. I swapped stories with Dave’s aunt Kris (who I love, and admire for her many years on the mission field as a Wycliff missionary in Mexco,) laughing over kids’ personalities, birth order, and the like.
Almost always when I visit the mainland, I find myself pondering how our boys’ life, being homeschooled in the country on a small island, compares to cousins who go to public schools in a community more like I grew up in. The cousins’ lives are full of opportunities, ranging from sports to music, gifted programs, camps, and the list goes on. I allowed myself to feel a little sad for what my boys are missing, and tried to keep perspective on what they’re not.
I took time to stand in a pile of leaves, drinking in the autumn splendor, and gave myself permission to feel a little sad for what I’m missing.
(And I officially promised myself to find a way to spend July-November in the Pacific Northwest.)
As friends and relatives shared stories, I found myself taking mental notes: Things I want to add to our family’s life, or where we could use a little more focus or attention. For example, I noticed how many of the best memories involve food, and traditions involving food: Mom’s home-pressed grape juice. Her Swedish “fruit soup” at the holidays, and the rows of jarred everything in her cupboard from the summer’s harvest.
So I vowed to myself to put a little more energy into food traditions, and home-made goodness. These are the things that the boys will remember many years from now. And these are things that I truly love. They’re worth taking the time for.
As we all gathered, I kept thinking of the word community. My eighty year old in-laws have a rich community of friends and relatives who have walked with them through many seasons. My father-in-law spoke a few words, and talked about life being like driving down a long road, where you meet new friends as you go, kids join the ride at some point, and the road is ever changing. These dear people have remained close through thick and thin: Children, homes, finding jobs, and losing jobs. Trials and triumphs. And as they get older, a lot of goodbyes and celebrating the lives of those who have passed.
I like community. I want more of it. I have admitted before that Hawaii has been the hardest place for me to gel naturally in community. I don’t have a good excuse—The North Shore is full of people like us who have transplanted, and there is a lot we have in common. Some of it is the busy season of kids and homeschool that we’re in, but I realize that this is an area I could work on. So as we fly back, Dave and I have been talking about being more intentional about the relationships we have outside our own little family. I think God created us to live in community.
More than anything else, I found such a beauty in the celebration of this eighty-year old man and his wife, and truly reveled in the seemingly lost-art of their sixty-year long marriage. They built their life the old-fashioned way: Hard work. Commitment. Prayer. More hard work. Reaching out when they needed help, and offering a hand to others who needed it. They have loved deeply, and been true to one another every day. They have always lived within their means, and saved more than they spent. They are a humble couple, quick to listen and slow to speak. Anyone would be blessed to glean just a bit of their combined wisdom and experience.
So as I return from this visit, I feel inspired to remember the things thatI believe really matter: Family. Community. Commitment. Love. (And food.) Our life may look different from so many I know on the mainland, and my boys are not being raised just like we were, or like the traditional American family, but we’re doing all right. In fact, we’re making our own memories that I believe they will cherish for a lifetime. We have amazing friends all over the globe, and relationships to continue to grow in our own community. Most importantly Dave and I have each other, and a marriage built on the same solid foundation of faith that his parents’ marriage was built on sixty years ago.
And I can hope and pray that Dave and I will live to be healthy eighty year-olds, and we might gather in a home full of people we love, as we all belt out hymns from our day, which will no-doubt seem old fashioned to the kids. I hope then that my kids will be there, with their own stories of successes and failures, and joys and sorrows, and I pray that they will have more good memories than bad.
And we will know that we have everything that really matters.
Thanks for sharing in my ponderings…