The sound of the owl always reminded me of Ohio. Lying in the up up upstairs twin bed at grandmas house, my sister in the other bed next to me. I can remember the cool feel of the breeze from a hot summer night. The railroad tracks not to far from there gave way to middle of the night train sounds. It was comforting. It meant we were there. Although a different comfort than sounds from home. Now as an adult, and my kids snuggling in their beds, I hear an owl hoot and it reminds me from my childhood summer days. It brings me back that sounds, and that Ohio air smell.
We traveled regularly from upstate New York to Maumee, Ohio in the summer and Christmas time to visit family. As we would pull in from a long drive of sibling squabbles over who is taking up the most room and mom and dad’s love tracks on the radio, and we would see them. Our cousins jumping up and down on the side of Kurtz street announcing “the Campbells are here, the Campbells are here!” They would run the trace of the road next to our van until we pulled up the rocky drive in front of my grandmother’s home. The hunter green trim contrasted to the white exterior wall paint, the triangular porch steps covered in fake grassy cloth so we didn’t slip, led up to the front door. I can remember the sound so distinctly of the door opening, one that would open and shut all summer long as we scrambled outside for sprinklers and popsicles with cousins. As we entered the room the familiar smell of Grandma’s powder and the soft feel of her velvet robe welcomed us as she hugged us inside.
Those summer days went by like fireflies free from winter. They were hot managed chaos of groups of cousins we rarely saw that now clung together like a herd of elephants. Meandering from the local drug store, the pool, and my cousin’s side yard tree swing. I wonder now, as an adult, what did my parents do all the time we stayed there. It must’ve tasted like freedom for my mom in some ways, finally her kids were off playing, she could spend time with her sisters and her mom on the back porch with some lemonade in hand. And join in the chorus that echoed over us kids “stay outside!” They would tell stories of their aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins. And mostly talk about their dad. My grandfather, a charismatic window washing pastor, died when I was just two. They were stories we heard a thousand times but didn’t actually remember. Just bits and pieces that we could connect with. I remember the joy grandpa had, or was it just that I heard his gregarious nature described so many times it’s been etched in my mind like a vine grafted to my memory tree.
I have one memory of him, or it could be a dream. I was toddling around a coffee table, all of my aunts and uncles sitting around it, and every time I passed him he would tickle me. I would squeal with delight and make another round, expectant of the joy would come when I would round the bend and stumble on his feet…only to be tickled to again.
It makes me think of our legacy. My grandpa, whom I barely knew, left such an impression on his family that they could barely stand to be together without him. I suppose that’s why they talked about him everytime they were together.
What will my legacy be, I wonder, when my children are gathered in the middle of summer. While their kids light up the sky with sparklers and parade around with caprisuns, what will be shared in their memory of me. I hope it will be stories that made them laugh, or feel loved. I hope that the ridiculous things I do or the measures I go to will be seen as kind, sweet, loving, and fun. I am positive it won’t be how well I kept the house or how patient I was. Maybe it’ll be a dish I made they loved, or how I was their for the birth of their child. It might be that I was always doing something creative or new, or that I didn’t know a stranger. These are the things that I hope will be reflected when my days are done and I am another star in the sky.
So if I am to leave a legacy as such, what do I need to be doing now to stay in touch with who I want to be to them? I think it’s nothing. It might just be, reflection. Allowing my true self to be reflected in every day. Allowing God’s joy to spill into the tiny moments of motherhood. I think it might be allowing laughter to permeate the strugglebus of parenting. It might even be the boundaries that we keep, the values we hold on tight to, the hard conversations we have that show our deepest affection and desire for our kids.
Remember when mom wouldn’t let me play teen video games when I was 7? -She didn’t want us to learn to violence, especially too soon.
Remember when she made us clean up the forest?- Yeah she really cared about the earth
Remember when she came to my games even though I told her she didn’t have to? – She really loved to watch me play, so supportive!
Remember how she worshiped at church and danced in the kitchen?- She really loved God and music.
I hope and pray the things that could be annoying for them now, will turn into the realization of what I cared about and how much I crazy love them.
Lord let it be so.
I don’t know about you but I am trying so hard to do this parenting thing well. I wonder how each decision I make will affect them. Or, each thing I let slip by will impact them. What if we just put it all to rest?
What if, we went with our intuition, our natural skills, and allowed our true self to shine through. After all, we all were made so uniquely, with such different perspectives and desires. Would it be crazy enough to think who we are is enough and the kids that were given to us are just the right fit for us? Let it sink in.
They were made for me, and I for them. So if I put down the striving, and pick up the being, perhaps the legacy that will come through will be who I am, what I valued, and how I loved. Not perfection, but the perfectly imperfect creation of me. And that imperfect me, raising other perfect imperfections that make them, them.
And what is spoken of, what is left in memories deep; is who you actually are and who you were to them. All of it, though, through the cleansing lense of love.