My daughter, Abigail and her boyfriend, Adam had come for dinner on a Monday night. It was something that didn’t happen often, as she lives too far from us, but she had been in town, so had asked herself to dinner. Alex, the youngest in our family, teased her, “So, has Adam seen you do gymnastics?”
We all chuckled. Embarrassing Abigail with the video of her debut as an eight-year-old gymnast was always one of the boys’ favorite things to do. After Adam showed his curiosity toward the subject, Abigail agreed to let him watch it. The problem was that we couldn’t find the tape. We searched everywhere, but had to settle for watching a tape of mini Paul Family segments.
The video brought us back over ten years, and by the time we were done, tears were rolling down my face. My little children, their lives, so full of life. My dog, now deceased. My two little nieces, Allie and Miranda, and the way they reached up for me to hold them, their little hands waving in the air. And me, young, healthy, youthful and full of purpose.
The next day I found myself feeling under the weather. Driving home for lunch, I started to think about the video. I thought of my boys, so skinny and boney, their fishing poles and pride at catching a five-inch bass. My daughter all dressed up for prom in her Scarlet O’Hara dress. And the scene where Allie comes to me and holds up her arms, and I scoop her up – her and her love. Tears welled in my eyes, and I found myself sobbing. And I sobbed all the way home. I sobbed as I pulled into my garage, shutting the door, and feeling grateful that no one was home to see my blubbering. I let the tears roll and flow, then made my way to the bathroom where I blew my nose and wiped away the tears, and smoothed my make up.
So silly, I thought. What was I crying for? I always wonder what it is I am crying for. Am I sad? Do I miss those days, those babies and pups? And I tell myself that there is no way in the world I would ever want to go back. Yet each time the vision of those video scenes form in my mind, I feel an ache in my chest.
My life is so different now. And sometimes, I guess, I feel beaten down by it all. Raising kids was tough. Being married and learning to live with and still love my husband was even harder. Watching my children walk out the door was like watching my dog being euthanized.
Is this the way I am supposed to feel, I ask myself?
I enjoy my time now. Writing, quilting, knitting, reading and all the freedom I have. So many fewer obligations and responsibilities. It is truly great.
As I blew my nose one last time before going back to work, I realized that those videos were the fantasy. They were the good times! The times that you WANT to remember. The kids were smiling, laughing and lovingly teasing. But behind the scenes, they fought and had homework! In the video, I looked healthy and, but on the inside, I was struggling. Not like now, when I have found a more confident me, contentment in myself and in my marriage.
The memory is selective. I guess it’s supposed to work that way, so we can heal and move forward. The trick is to not get seduced by the fantasy. The fantasy of the past OR the future. And just live in the present. It is a tough thing to do. And the saying, “The grass is always greener…” is proof that most people have a tendency to look “elsewhere” for their happiness.
I’m choosing to find my happiness right here with the now. I can’t guarantee I’m not going to feel a little twang when I watch those videos. It just happens. But I know I’m not spending my time looking back. I’m relishing the moment. For if there’s anything a video of the past can do, it is to remind you to cherish the present.