During these months of isolation, I have had to find new ways to spend my time, and I realized that there were things I never had the time to do, like go through stuff. Some may call it clutter, but I called it, well clutter. It is what it is, or is it? I saw papers sticking out of a box, and decided just to go through the one box. I found letters from loved ones long gone, speaking to me again. My diary, calendars, programs from recitals, cards, trinkets, mementos of memories of a life that seemed so long ago, yet could have been yesterday. I have found that as I aged, past becomes present and connects the generations within me. People, places, images from times long ago live in the here and now as long as I remember them.
If you've ever read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, then you will understand what happens to me when I sift through what little has survived life, fires, theft, loss, and moving. Pictures lead to a memory, memory leads to looking for said objects in picture, sifting through items looking for said objects leads to memory, which leads to finding other boxes. With that being said, I found myself with my childhood jewelry, and it led to conversations with my mother with her lessons from long ago.
I realized that when she read to me, when she answered my questions, when she put me in charge of younger siblings, and when she spent time with me, I established the faith, traits, habits, and skills that guided me. This is the story of my childhood jewelry and the lessons my mother shared through the tiniest piece.
Note: This reflection is one of the opening chapters in my book Isolation Shorts.
On Childhood Lessons
As I went through my childhood jewelry box, sweet stories of innocent times with slower paces, places, and people long gone flooded my mind and eyes. Each one was a reminder of special loves and lessons. Yes, there was my frog pin, the precious pin from my aunt, a wishbone for good luck, Jesus charm, and the jeweled kitty cat. Diamond kitty was my favorite when young, and frog was from those late 1960s early teen years. It’s surprising that I still have them, for much of my childhood mementos burned in a warehouse fire.
There was the necklace my sister had given to me one Christmas. She had one just like it because I bought that for her, too. “Mom always said give something you would like to receive if you were that person.” Both Susan and I were joyfully surprised by our gift. It's rusted now, but I still have mine. It's kind of symbolic in a way. We're both feeling a bit rusted, but we're still here.
I was active in Brownie Scouts, Girl Scouts, and I was a school safety patrol. I had the pins from each, reminding me of the valuable lessons learned, friendships made, and the beginnings of school supervision. That safety patrol pin is about a half inch, and yet my career would be spent with supervision and keeping children safe. Scouting was a huge part of my life, providing those essential life skills and experiences that carried me through my adult years.
My choir crosses were there, too. The big silver one was for faithfully finishing one year, and I received the smaller three year Celtic cross upon completion of the third year. After Mom passed away, I joined the choir again, and it helped renew my soul.
There are my Sunday School pins. I earned one for each year of faithful attendance. I had the first year pin, the wreath that surrounded the pin for year two, and the bars that hung from the wreath for each year afterward. After joining during second grade, I attended every week from third through sixth and had four years of pins.
Then there it was. The ring was so tiny! My little silver ring! It looked so rusty, but it was still so beautiful to me. On it were three itty bitty charms: a cross, an anchor, and a heart. Later, I was given the gold pin with the same, but that little ring was my first with the charms. When I first saw this ring, I asked Mom what they meant. She put her arm around me as she explained, "These are the three most important lessons Jesus taught us: Faith, hope, and charity." Then Mom added, "and the greatest of these is charity which also means love." I had a time with understanding all that, but I could equate the words with the symbols. I learned that charity meant helping others, but I have found that it takes a lifetime to learn what God's love is. Charity happens when we love. Mom said if I hold on to those three things and do all things through love, I would always be okay. Faith. Hope. Love.
She was right.
In unison, these have helped me make sense of what goes on and how I should respond. Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith. Hope. Love. They have guided me, and do you know what? When all was at its worst or best, those three guiding principles pulled me through, allowed me to see mercy, have gratitude, experience and give forgiveness, learn what unconditional love is, keep studying the word, seeking truth, seeking Christ, praying, listening, helping, giving, knowing and sharing that after torture, there is always a death of the pain followed by a resurrection. Cross. Anchor. Heart. We lift our anchors, move forward in faith, and act in love. All these little reminders, symbolized on a tiny ring and given to a young child, taught a life lesson.
Maybe all of our children should receive such a gift, outlining what is important so that when the stuff we feel is important falls apart, we can return to the basics. We need to remember to share meaning with our children, live that meaning with them, and provide symbols to remind them these lessons are always with us.
Faith. Hope. Love.
But the greatest of these is love.
Upon reflection, how can we foster faith, hope, and love in our lives and in the lives of generations to come?
Taking it a step further: Find a box of memories to explore, a box of trinkets, a bit of clutter. What lessons did you learn, and how can you share these with others. Feel free to respond below.