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When a Moment Becomes a Memory


When a Moment Becomes a Memory

Andrea Burke

I've been going through all of my old documents lately. Digging up thoughts and piecing them together, finding old stories and remembering the places and people I've put in to words over the years. I've decided this year I'm going to post a mix of old stories, words that haven't been perfect and thoughts that aren't adequately formed. But bit by bit, I'm going to get it done and out, and whether anyone reads or not...well, that's secondary. 

Quickly moments pass into memory. In an instant what is becomes what was and it's so bittersweet, sometimes I can only fight to just stay present. We are coming up on our anniversary in a few weeks. With a 6 month old on one hip and a loquacious 8 year old on the other side, it’s easy to forget what was before I said "I do." Those years were full and hard, beautiful and fast. That’s why I write sometimes — just to remember. I write because I know that in a few years I won’t remember stories like this one. I’m sharing this with you today because maybe you need the reminder that life goes by fast and 1 a.m. girl chats with your eldest are necessary and sometimes over before you know it. And sometimes you don't know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

November 19, 2014

Last night, her six-year-old body was tucked in next to mine. She normally sleeps in her own bed, the one down the hall with the purple tulle draped around it. The one covered with stuffed animals and pages and pages of drawings that she creates night after night. Pictures of tinker bell, rainbows, leprechauns and mathematical equations (yes, you read that right). But every so often, when she wakes from a nightmare or if the house feels especially colder than usual, I find her body next to mine. Her hair is always knotted into a bun and slight curls wrap around her still perfect cherub cheeks. Last night she was awake when I crawled into bed. I was feeling especially sentimental. It’s a mix these days. She asked me to cut her hair because the responsibility of brushing out long, twisty curls was the cause of too many tears. So now she swings a long bob, and the just-too-short pieces are laying against the nape of her neck. Her eyes are big with glee when she sees that I too am crawling into bed.

“Your hair is just like mine, mom!” she points at the lopsided bun on the top of my head. Under the white blanket, she grabs my hand and invites me to share a pillow with her. She is growing so quickly, I think. Most parents have this moment — the one where you look at the babe you once birthed and realize they are quickly running out of the reach of your arms, but never your heart.

Early this evening, the man who has been winning our hearts and slowly, gently moving into a place carved out for him in this home, we talked about marriage. We talked about the days ahead, commitment, changes, the possibility of more children, all of the things couples talk about when the future is laid out before them as a vast unknowable thing. We reached our arms to each other across the couch and dreamed a bit about the nights when I won’t have to kiss him goodbye at the door but can kiss him goodnight on the pillow. We talk about covenants, fears, broken hearts and all of the things we’re laying out on the table of promise. 

But now, it’s just me and her. Just her head on my pillows. Just her tiny voice filling up the dark space of my bed. 

“Let’s have some girl talk,” I say. It’s well past 1 a.m. but that doesn’t matter. Not when time waits for no one, not even your mama heart. 

She squeals, pulling the blanket up over our heads. She rattles off about the “cutest boy” who waves at her across the hall, some questions about life and what I love about the man who just hours before swung her upside down. It’s nothing life-changing, but maybe life-building. Maybe not the conversation that shapes her dreams and choices, but the kind that hopefully will lead to more that give her time and space to share what can only be shared by the quiet whispers of pillow talk. 

But these days, these six years of endless mom and me time, hours and hours of knowing there was no one else to compete for my attention, and an unknown future of questions — they’re slipping more and more into memory. Parts of these days are ending. The exclusivity of our relationship is slipping into past tense. “Remember when it was just us?” she’ll ask and we review story and adventures before a men held our hands and swung our hearts and bodies high into the sun. Memory leaves out the aching tears when she asked why she didn’t have a father here. The nightmares of abandonment. The questions I couldn’t answer when she asked why she can’t feel God’s hugs. Memory pushes these away into tiny fragments under the blooming memories of train trips, plane rides and movie nights. 

Today I sat across the table from a mother who has been where I’ve been. Once upon a time, she was the single mother. She cradled her baby alone for years until God saw fit to send her a man to step in as husband and dad. Now more than 15 years and three more kids later, she nods and listens as I tell her that I feel a tinge of sadness in all of this joy.

“You have to grieve the loss of what was,” she says. “To lose one thing for something greater is a good thing. But to acknowledge that you’ve lost it is an important thing too.” As Dr. Seuss said — sometimes you don’t know the value of something until it becomes a memory. 

We are making room for a man in our lives. We’re learning about expressing love, receiving love, opening our home, couch and hearts to an answered prayer that each of us has sought God for many times over the years.

And here he is, texting me that he’s arrived safe back at his home, and for this night and not too many to come, I’m holding just her at my side. She is giggling about the boy who waves and I’m kissing her matted curls. I’m savoring this even as it slips into the dark and the days of old, knowing soon enough she will be waving goodbye at my door, making promises to someone else.

Someday we will hold these six years as a golden bubble of provision. Years of fighting for repentance, receiving grace, seeking restoration, hoping for better, believing for good, savoring the best. Not long from now, my bed will not be mine alone. My pillows will not be reserved for girl talk only. But here at my side, where a scar remains from where she was pulled from me, red and passionate, screaming and waiting to be held, here she will always have a place. Here where my body still aches to remember what it was like when I held a soul apart from me but somehow part of me. Here, even when the man reaches for me across the space, do I find the place for her. Here in the beauty of memory.