You know those magic moments where time slows, and you wish you could stay there forever? This was one of those evenings. It was ordinary by all accounts. The Saturday chores were long done, our kids were bathed and getting ready for bed, and the sun was making its slow descent behind the hills. The summer breeze wrapped your skin like a warm blanket, and you could hear crickets begin to sing their soothing songs.
I had just stepped outside to take the garbage out when I noticed my two youngest. I smiled as I watched Mitch hum a song as he scooted about, while Wyatt had an imaginary conversation, tromping about the driveway in his tiny shoes. I can almost smell Wyatt’s freshly shampooed hair and feel the warm cotton of his pajamas, just out of the dryer. I miss those days. As I pulled out my phone to take a photo of life in motion, tiny Wyatt ran to his brother’s side, eager to make sure he was in the shot. Wyatt reached for the handlebar and pressed his baby index finger onto Mitchell’s hand as if to give him a tiny hand-hug and say, “That’s my big brother, and we’re buddies.”
As I look closely at this image, I can see the breadcrumbs of an extraordinary life hiding in plain sight. Mitch held a purple pencil in his hand and a teddy bear between his legs … evidence that children treasure the little things. Mitchell’s smile bore a fading milk mustache from lunch a few hours earlier. Wyatt wore his favorite Spiderman t-shirt and bore a similar mustache – except he also had crumbs from a cookie he’d recently gobbled down with a feverish giggle. There stood my two youngest kids … tiny, cute, perfectly imperfect, little messes. At this moment I was overwhelmed with gratitude; I was so glad to be a dad.
I was so swept up with this moment, I didn’t want it to end. I’m reminded of the phrase, “Can’t I stay a little longer? I’m so happy here.” That’s how I felt … and I wanted to live there forever.
Today, my heart says something similar. When I think back on my Camelot years, my heart whispers, “I was so happy then. If only it could have lasted. Can’t I just visit for a moment or two?” There is a part of me that wishes to go back in time because I’d relish moments in ways only a grieving heart can fully know.
In a way, I do go back in time. Only the events are fixed and, I am as a ghost visiting old times and familiar places in my mind. That’s what writing is to me: a time machine. These days 95% of my life is concerned with now and the future – but I will always reserve a little space to visit my past with a tender heart and pencil and paper.
I go back in time for at least 4 reasons:
So that I won’t forget the little things.
To make meaning of love, life, loss, and suffering.
To clean and dress my wounds.
To foster gratitude for what was and to better appreciate what I have today.
Going back in time can be tricky. If we’re not mindful, we can irritate our wounds in such a way they won’t ever heal. And sometimes, they’ll get infected. At least for me, intention has a lot to do with how I choose to heal. When I go back in time, I am always looking to understand the past, to mend what’s broken and strengthen my feeble knees. Sure, I cry -- but they are cleansing tears … the kind that keep the soil of my soul soft, fertile, and growth promoting.
The inevitable consequence of going back in time is my heart cries, “Can’t I stay a little longer?” But then the less broken part of me says, “Come as often as you like. Take what helps, heal what hurts, and find gratitude for all that ever was and is yet to be.” Those are the words that resonate deep inside of me.