I am my grandmother’s granddaughter, and I mark changes, always have. I wrote the following piece a few years ago at a writing retreat with my Farther Along sisters, and I share it now because it is just a couple of days until the end of this year, a time to review and reflect about change for many of us. It is also a couple of days until I note the birthday of my daughter on the last day of the year, another birthday I will miss celebrating with her. My custom on the birthdays of my children is to think about their lives now and then, to mark some of the changes in their lives and mine. Here’s the reminiscence from September 2010; the prompt Carol gave us was “What in my life is changing right now.”
What in my life is changing right now?
The cells in my body are changing, sloughing off as I write, new ones appearing.The very cells. The building blocks of my body, mind and, dare I say, soul? (Well, at least sole.) Inside and outside I am changing by the nanosecond.
What in my life besides the cells in my body are changing? The leaves are changing, the sky is changing, the temperature—well, I wish it were changing to be just a little cooler. I am writing all around the edges of change, not wanting to give voice to some of them. I’ll just keep listing and listening. Perhaps I’ll discover what is changing.
I became aware of how much change has occurred in the last ten years, the last seven years, the last five years, the last year as I have cleaned out rooms at my mother’s house and some at my own. Little snippets of our lives returned briefly to say hello as I packed boxes for Goodwill, made stacks for Habitat, Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and the Vietnam Veterans.
How do I know day to day what changes are happening now? One change may be that I am sorting and sifting and passing along some of the things of my life. Do I really need that drivers license from 1978? I remember the day I had to get a babysitter to go renew my license, then didn’t have the cash to pay for the renewed license and the only acceptable payment was cash, no checks and heavens, no credit cards allowed. I burst into tears in front of the whole crowd of people waiting impatiently for their turns to translate traffic signs and take eye tests, as I thought of having to find another day to hire a babysitter I could ill afford when a secretary pulled me aside and allowed me to write her a check for the cash to get my license renewed.
Do I need that crate of lesson plans that no one will ever use again? Do I need the 1830 bonnet that belonged to a distant relative? Do I need the collection of yearbooks from all the 30-some years I taught in high schools? If I give away all of those things, how am I changed?
My life is changing because I am watching children grow and waiting for one to be born, experiencing the links and connections between generations. My life is changing because I am walking beside my mother as she slowly loses connections to this life. My life is changing because I am silently and (usually) gently participating in some of the changes in others’ lives as I attempt to watch those in my own.
“Making all things new” was the theme of the Moravian Synod where 211 delegates, clergy and laity joined together to listen and discern God’s leading recently. It’s a good process most of the time, the listening, reflecting, discerning.
I think it’s also what we do without formality in our writing retreats as mothers and sisters. We listen, we reflect, we think ahead and backward and now. These thirteen mothers, eight of whom are here writing and reading, laughing and weeping some too–we are all changing every second. We are all moving on while peacefully pausing to write.
Of course, my body is changing and my mind is continuing to grow (I hope), to absorb new ideas, new sights, new somethings.
But I was distraught to realize that all the cells in one’s body are changed, replaced within a five year cycle. In that physical sense, I am almost three times changed since Elizabeth died almost 14 years ago. Not the same person I was when she last hugged me tight as she left the house on that fall Friday night. The cells in my hands are not the ones she touched and left an inprint on when she held on tight from fear before a surgery.
Sometimes I don’t like change. I wish I could hit pause or stop or rewind. At least the fast forward button doesn’t work.