It was a night when I just didn’t have any more to give. I had been giving all day long, answering a thousand questions as a mom then as a high school teacher, then home to answer more as a mom. It made my temper short and my mood sour as I got dinner ready to put on the table. Despite how much I loved my family, all I wanted that night was quiet. Instead, the dinner table was loud and chatty and squabbly. There was a constant stream of chatter and questions and laughter and silliness that I couldn’t seem to tolerate. The table wasn’t different than any other night; I was different.
I did what I usually do in these moments- I internally reminded myself that I was really going to miss this someday. I reminded myself that I would regret it if I disengaged and let this moment pass without being present. I knew that in twenty years, I would want to have this night, in all its loud, raucous glory, back again to savor.
Suddenly amused, I thought about that idea. What if I could go forward in time and invite 64-year-old me backward in time to sit at this table? What a gift that would be! I imagine that 64-year-old me would jump at the chance. What would it be like?
Now I listened to the table banter with fresh ears. 64-year-old me would love to hear the oldest, the little professor, over explain and analyze everything. She would remember what a young scientist he is, how funny he could be, how curious. She would make him stand up so she could remember what it was like to have a son that came just above her nose.
She would remember that her daughter’s cheeks were the softest things she ever felt, and that her blond hair was as fine as corn silk. She would remember how she had the slightest of lisps and that she clamored the hardest for her mother’s attention. What year will my daughter stop doing that? 64-year-old me would know.
And the little one. 64-year-old me would be overwhelmed by the grin that lacked those two front teeth. What a brief window that grin existed in! 64-year-old me would be so delighted to be able to see it again, and hear this littlest one tell her tales of first grade life. 64-year-old me would love the recollection that this one- the little one- was the true comedian in a family of funny people.
Their chatter would be music, their laughter would thrill, even their squabbles would be precious. 64-year-old me would want that dinner to go on and on and on. But it would end soon enough. Dishes would be cleared, cookies would be eaten, and they would troop upstairs to get ready for bed. It would be over, 64-year-old me would return reluctantly to the quiet of 2034.
What a gift that would be to give 64-year-old me! Then suddenly I was thunderstruck by this realization: a gift had been given, but not for 64-year-old me, but from her. She had come back in time to give me her eyes, her ears, and her perspective on a life that I was too tired for that night. The gift was given to 44-year-old me. Watching my family- her family- through eyes twenty years past this season of life made the mundane precious. It was a gift a 44-year-old needed that night, one I will keep close in my heart.