I can still picture exactly the way my childhood bedroom looked.
I had a brass bed, brass make-up table and brass shelf. I had an entertainment center my daddy built for me and my uncle’s childhood desk in the corner of the room.
I had a toy box turned memory box—again, built by Daddy—and two closets, one of which led into a tiny attic where my mom kept old Avon samples and pieces she’d crocheted when she was in a weird crocheting phase.
There were windows on either side of my bed—you could crawl out of them and onto my roof. A boy once climbed that roof and knocked on my window in the middle of the night—scared the mess out of me. I sat out there on another night with a girlfriend after we’d stolen my mother’s pack of cigarettes—we were determined to teach ourselves to smoke. (People do really stupid things all the time, I learn the longer I live.)
There will never be a day I return to that childhood bedroom. Even if I could walk through that house again (and oddly the family who purchased it has a daughter named Toni), I will never see my bedroom as it was before.
I will never climb the pine trees in that front yard while my mom works in the flower beds and my daddy works on the side of the house. Those pine trees aren’t even there anymore.
There will be no summers spent at my grandmother’s Clarksdale home. I will never taste her Italian cooking again. Though the house is still there and I’m free to visit as I please, my sweet grandmother is gone and will not return to me in flesh. She comes to me in dreams, but it is never enough. Never.
I miss the smell of her mopping the floors; I miss her three-hour breaks to watch ABC soaps. I miss watching her sit on her knees in the backyard and dig through the ground to make a garden so inviting and beautiful I spent hours just lying on the swing, observing the Creation around me with a smile.
I will never again feel the nervous excitement of starting a new school year. I will never enter a new classroom, meet a new teacher, make new friends. My days of shouting, “Go Arrows!” in the stands at football games with friends are long gone, as is the field where they played.
Those youthful days have passed, and while I love my little life and what my husband and I have built, I often grow nostalgic during the fall season.
Maybe the changing of the leaves reminds me of the afternoons we all tried to stay outside just a little bit longer. We wanted to hold onto summer, but the cold was quickly approaching—you could feel the chill in the early evening when the sky was growing darker faster.
Maybe it’s the mornings that feel so good I’m compelled to take my coffee outside. Looking up at the purple and red fall sky reminds me of Saturdays I’d get up early enough to join my mom on the front porch as she took her first cigarette of the day, or watch my dad as he climbed the roof to repair yet another piece of wood on our old home’s facade.
Or maybe it’s carting my kids to the football games to cheer on the Chargers. I watch them dress in their blue and Charger-gold and I return to the days I donned the red and black. I breathe in and can still smell the carnation pinned on girls the night of the homecoming game.
In those moments of remembering, of living between two worlds, past and present, I return to my youth for just one more day, reflecting on innocence and how quickly it slips away.
I didn’t know (though I probably should have) that my parents would split apart after almost 17 years of marriage.
I didn’t know all that would occur afterwards, both good and not-so-good.
I didn’t know my family would become so fragmented and disconnected that we would never again be together in the same room. That milestones would pass—graduations, weddings, births of children—and the four of us would not be there to celebrate them. New family, good family, would be there for sure, family I love and am thankful for. But not the same family I had as a child.
I didn’t know (though I probably should have) that grandmas don’t live forever, that friendships fall away and become as if they never existed, and that people leave your life and don’t return.
Seasons of reflection can be hard because we are reminded of what we were never promised.
We were never promised that life would remain the same forever, changing instead so we could stretch and grow.
We were never promised that there would never be hard times, that people would stick around and be the same way forever, that breaking away and maturing didn’t sometimes happen without a great deal of loss and pain.
We were never promised to always know for sure who we are and where we belong.
That kind of not knowing is difficult. It forces us out of our comfort zone. It reminds us that life is indeed limited and that time is always running out and that those two facts will never change.
But there’s some good in discovering what you didn’t know before, too.
I didn’t know until recently that you could reflect on the past without having to remember the bad—that you really could just forget some of those hard times and choose to remain in and be grateful for the good.
That you could wipe your tears, open your eyes, and forge ahead, creating new life and new memories that your children will one day remember with the same wistful smile you now find in your own reflection.