The balmy August air enveloped us like a blanket in winter as the four of us lay out on our top deck, faces fixed on the darkness above us while meteors occasionally streaked across the night sky. That was our very first star-gazing experience as a family. Just a year prior, we’d been living in the suburbs where streetlights doused all but the brightest stars, making the glory of the night skies nearly invisible.
In the next few days, astronomers say, we will be able to experience the best meteor shower of the year: the Perseids. Will my hubby and I keep the boys awake, drag our sleeping bags out of the overhead storage in the garage, and do it all again this year? I’m not sure yet…after all, the peak of the meteor shower is around 2am and I am not a night owl. One thing is for certain, those minutes we spent last year were some of the best spent of the whole year, so maybe another sleep-deprived, star-gazing night is worth it.
When you were a kid, did you wish on a shooting star? Or perhaps you wished on the “first star” you saw each night? As Gran shared with her clan in Monday’s season premiere of Chesapeake Shores, “Wishing is where the heart wants to go, and doing makes dreams come true.” It takes more than a wish on a star to realize a dream. As I prepare for the boys’ first day back at school this fall, I think about dreams and time – and how easy it is to lose track of both if we’re not careful. I think about the tears I cried when I held my firstborn son the night before I went back to work after maternity leave. He was four months old. Now, he is a nine-year-old 4th grader – and those tears still simmer just beneath the surface as I type. You know what I wish about tonight, what I dream about? I wish to be a better mom – a mom who has more time to play, more time to cuddle…more time, period. No matter what I do, I’m alway sacrificing something because there isn’t enough time.
This summer was the shortest since I became a teacher. With just 8 weeks to enjoy, I still felt we began this summer with an abundance of time. Sixty days to spend together – to soak in each others’ presence. Just like Abby had planned a list full of special outings and activities for her time with Trace during his three-week break in Sunday’s season premiere of Chesapeake Shores, I made a mental list of all I wanted to do with my family. Sure, the list included chores like “take old clothes to Goodwill” and “hang pictures on the walls,” but my primary focus was my family.
As a teacher, my time is often not my own during the school year. Between lesson-planning and grading essays, department meetings and after-school supervision, there never seems to be enough time to do what I really want to do. So, I try to make up for it all summer. This time around, my mom and I worked through a DVD series on screenwriting that we’ve been putting off for a long time. My sons and I spent a whole week together, growing in our faith. The four of us, hubby included, spent time in Disneyland with friends, making many precious memories. We swam daily (until the outside air became unsafe to breathe). We played with friends two and three times a week. We painted, drew pictures, built Legos, read stories, and spent as many minutes together as we could. You see, it isn’t about “how much time we have. It’s about what we do with it.” Together, the four of us in our family made memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
As I watched the last few scenes of Sunday’s episode where Abby’s daughters snapped selfies and photos of their family during the Oyster Festival on the beach, my mind instantly began flashing back to images of my own summer. While I didn’t walk on the beach, holding hands with my husband, or sit around a campfire with my boys, snapping silly photos, I did make some of my very favorite memories this summer right here, in our own house, on our own couch, where I curled up with my boys who are growing way too fast – where we watched goofy kids’ shows and giggled together.
Then, my mind floods with other images: towering piles of clean laundry that wait to be folded, a sink full of stinky, dirty dishes that won’t wash themselves, and the messy stacks of paper on my desk that need sorted. And I wonder, where are those images for Abby, and Jess, and Bree? In between the fun and memories, where is the dirt and grime of daily life? We all know it must be there because that’s what life and love and family is: a beautiful, sweet, glorious mess.
I push those irritating images of obligation to the most distant compartment in my mind and whisper a cross-stitch saying that my own mother kept on her wall during my growing-up years:
Cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.
As it turns out, these four profound lines of verse were penned by another mother who face the same challenges. Ruth Hulburt Hamilton’s poem “Song for a Fifth Child” was published in Ladies Home Journal in 1958. She wrote it as a reflection about her own motherhood with her “fifth child.” Sixty years later, her words echo in my heart and mind.
And so, without either of my boys noticing, I often closed my eyes this summer as we watched television. I rested my cheek to the tops of their heads, and slowed the moments down in my mind. Because, as Trace said to the magazine reporter, “I don’t take a single moment for granted because it could all be gone in a heartbeat.” As we all know, the sink full of dishes and the baskets of laundry will not magically disappear, no matter how many times we wish on a star that they will. And no matter how many times we wish and dream for a little ones to stay little, they won’t.