Sometimes I look back on my childhood. I see my mama smiling, and I hear the melodious call of my name when it’s time to let the lightning bugs fly away free. I remember sleeping over at my grandparents’ house — knitted afghan blankets and hot apple cider, two gentle people who held me close, and the sweet, earthy smell of the nighttime air outside my open window. I wonder if Heaven might smell that way, for me. Then I think of the early scars that faded, and of others that stayed, to remind me.
I think back to a time when magic still existed. When none of my heart had been broken, or buried six feet underground.
And I think… didn’t we have it all back then?
Sometimes, I think back to high school and those early years in my twenties. It’s strange how your senses can trigger your memory, isn’t it? And how a memory, even a good one, can almost haunt you while you grieve it? And you can grieve it over and over… there aren’t rules for how to remember.
These pieces of the past still live in my mind so vividly, I can almost see it all playing out before my eyes. It was a time of friendships that felt like air in my lungs, or sometimes that pierced and deflated them. I can still hear the laughter, and I can still feel the tears of forgiveness. It was a time of falling in love and hearts breaking and maybe even wondering for the very first time, is this worth it? Can I go on?
It all feels so real and yet like it happened to somebody else, and sometimes I resent that we can never go back and be in it again, just for a minute. We cared about everything and nothing, somehow. It was a time when back roads and the right songs and the friends we swore we’d know forever — they all made everything better, at least for a little while.
And sometimes I close my eyes and think… didn’t we have it all back then?
I remember when I first met my husband. It was the only time to that point that it had been easy to give up my autonomy. It somehow felt simple to co-exist. And then I realized, maybe I’d never even loved myself before — was that it? Had I sabotaged my own happiness? And so, for a time, it was simple. I didn’t have to work to look after my heart. Date nights, dancing at weddings, going out carelessly with friends on the weekends. It was fun. We had our worries and dreams and passions, but not a mortgage or babies or resentment just yet. It was a time before fault, a time before tears, and as I look back, I suppose I’m just thankful that I was naive to the truths of the world for a while.
Sometimes I clutch my chest and I think… good God, Didn’t we have it all?
And, oh, how I hope I will live to be old. I pray for wrinkles, and gray hair, and for a lifetime of memories to sustain me in my winter. I want all of the memories…the beautiful memories and the crushing ones, too. They’ll all be part of my story. But I know it doesn’t always work out that way, and I find myself mourning — far too often — the people who left us too soon.
But I think, come what may, I’ll look back on today. On the sound of children’s laughter, and even their arguments and their tears. I’ll think of chubby hands and cheeks, of baby feet I held protectively… so scared those feet would grow and carry my babies out the door and far away.
I’ll think of dolls and dinosaurs covering the floors, of endless stickiness everywhere, of mud pies brought into the house. I’ll think of reading books and nighttime snuggles, and of the endless I love yous exchanged.
And I don’t know if I’ll smile on it then. I don’t know if I’ll cry, if I’ll laugh, or even, as I look through the photographs, if I’ll be lucky enough to say, “I remember.”
But I hope the world will go quiet, as I smooth out the photographs’ edges. I’ll run my achy fingers over the fading faces that painted my life.
And I’ll tenderly kiss them and think to myself…
Didn’t we once have it all?