Every day before Mitch went to pre-school he would carefully fill his backpack with his favorite treasures of the day. I love how young children do that. On the top of his bag his sweet mother wrote his name with a symbol under each word: a star to let him know he was our shining little boy and a heart to remind him he was loved beyond measure.
I always enjoyed seeing what he was going to pack – for each day was different, each day unique. I often wondered what his treasures said about his state of mind. One thing is for sure, he was a tender, sweet child … as all children are.
My sweet wife would often place a secret note for Mitch and our other kids in their bags as they went to school. She wanted them to know that she loved them and thought of them always. And perhaps on a day that wasn't quite going right, this little note would be a lifeline of love for a discouraged heart in a sea of trouble. As her husband, I would occasionally see one of her thoughtful notes in my own bag, too, and it meant so much to me. If that small gesture of love meant so much to me, I can only imagine what it meant to our kids. I love her for that.
I had just taken Mitch to work with me in the spring of 2006, around the same time I took this photo. Here is an excerpt from my journal:
“I’ve been blessed to take Mitch to work on occasion. Often he’ll sit with me at the conference room table while I’m meeting with employees & contractors. Sweet Mitch will quietly find himself coloring, playing with toys, and driving cars on my back and across my arms, or playing games by himself. He is such a sweet little boy.
I’m always surprised how considerate Mitch is of his surroundings and how careful he is to not be disruptive. I suppose from a distance keeping him at an office for hours at a time is not very fun. [Even still] Mitchie asks me if he can come … and he is so enthusiastic about it. Each time he comes to work with me I’ll bring a sleeping bag and pillow and we’ll make a comfy fort under the table – just like I would make as a young boy, but better. I’ll surround him with toys and things to do and kiss his sweet face as he wiggles himself into his comfy fortress with a smile. I have so much fun with him.
Sometimes I’m tempted to call all my meetings off and spend the entire day making forts and playing with toys. I am not convinced age will diminish my desire to become a kid again.
After my meetings, I always take him to lunch and we talk about his favorite kitties and the blanket forts we’re going to make when we get home. I worry he’s growing up much too fast.”
Seven years would pass in a flash and this little boy would no longer be with us. As Mitch was collecting his childhood treasures through the years, as little children do, I was also collecting memories and experiences. Memories and experience are all we really carry with us in life, and beyond. And because our experiences are the things no economy or person can take away, they're worth investing our time and attention.
Like my son, I have a backpack of treasures I carry with me, only it cannot be seen … and it is filled to the brim with love and treasured memories. Filled to overflowing.