If a Tree Falls In the Forest

If you don’t write it down, it didn’t really happen. At least, after a little time, you usually forget, and it is as if it never happened. Even important things fade, and their meaning is lost if you don’t write it down.

By chance at one of our writer’s group meetings, a conversation reminded me of an experience from years before. Because I hadn’t written it down, I had not only forgotten it, I hadn’t fully benefit from the thoughts I’d had, the insight I’d been given. I told this experience to my friends that day, and one of them strongly encouraged me to write it down. She followed up until I actually did.

This is what I wrote:

In the weeks after our son Andrew died, we spent a lot of time at the park. I had no heart for every-day-life and none of us could concentrate. The weather that spring was mild, and in the park my children soon forgot for a time and could be children again. And I . . . I could sit in the open and try to find a way to cope with a pain so large it consumed me. We often went to the park.

kid playing in the park

One day a young mother, sitting near, started up a conversation with me. I’m sure, with my five children, I must have looked like an experienced mother, and she began to share her parenting frustration. Her two-year-old son would not stay in bed at night. She had a new baby, and she was exhausted–quite literally at wits end. She listed the different methods she had tried and detailed her son’s response. Trying to be helpful, I asked her to describe their bedtime ritual.

As she spoke, sometimes close to tears, about the stories, songs, talking to’s, even the strict punishments and locked door, I watched her son run and slide and laugh as he played on the playground. He was active and wild and excited, sweaty and red cheeked, and he was beautiful. And I . . .I fervently wanted my own two year old back. I would have given anything to see my son’s eager face after he climbed out of bed where I had placed him numerous times already, wanting a drink, another story, another song, another hug.

How could I tell this mother what a treasure she had. How could I help her see that, even in the middle of debilitating exhaustion and frustration, she had something so precious and rare. Two years old is only for a short moment. Even if you get to keep your baby for a lifetime, you never again get that same energy and eagerness for life that you experience with a two year old. I wanted to beg her not to squander the glory of a two-year-old son–to miss it or lose it, unaware.

Parents must teach. They must care for their children through exhaustion and sickness and new babies. Sometimes we lose patience and sometimes we make mistakes, but we must never lose the wonder and pure joy of these glorious gifts from God.

This is what happened that day. It was an important moment for me, I’d say even a defining moment. But I had forgotten it until this chance remark had brought it to memory.

Now, I don’t take this piece out and re-read it regularly, but because I took the time to write it once, it is an integral part of how I think when I look at my children and grand-children. I don’t know why it is that writing your experiences creates your experiences, makes them a part of you that just doesn’t happen with living it; I just know that it works that way.

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