On Growing Up

Almost all of us have some specific remnant(s) of our childhood we carry with us, a symbol of our earliest years.  Things we can look at or sounds we hear that fill us with memories.  Pictures that take us back to sitting on logs near the woodpile in the backyard eating Sweet Sixteen powdered donuts with your grandpa; songs that take us back to that roller-skating birthday party where your biggest focus was not falling in front of the boy you liked.  Or a teddy bear that you named after Big Bird’s teddy bear when you were a preschooler that adored Sesame Street.  We are blessed (or sometimes feel cursed) by a beautiful flood of memories that can come rushing back by association in a matter of moments.

Sometimes those moments come with the realization that life is speeding by faster than you had truly realized.  Once you become a parent, the thing you may often hear the most is “before you know it, they’ll be grown.” And it’s true.  It really is.  As cliche as it sounds, you can just about “blink and those early days are gone.”  We may feel it strongly when our kids take their first steps, say their first words, start picking out their own clothes, or begin their first year of school.  Life is often measured in the “firsts”.  Tonight I was hit by a mack truck of realization that involved a first I hadn’t really thought about and in many ways, am not quite ready for.  It involves one of my daughter’s firsts- her first love really.

It can be argued that it was her father and I that occupy that “first love” place in her heart, and I suppose that is certainly true in many ways.  But Lulu… Lulu has always held a special place in her heart, and it’s Lulu that has consistently been the symbol of my little girl’s childhood.

Lulu is a lamb.  A lovely, lavender lamb that was given to us as a baby shower gift before my sweet girl was even born.  She was the top of the diaper cake made by my friend Melissa in response to the knowledge that the theme for Eila’s nursery was The Lion and the Lamb.  Because of this, we were blessed with many lambs.  It took a few months of course, but Lulu soon became Eila’s favorite.  From about six months onward, they were inseparable.

Like many beloved stuffed animals, blankies, and so forth, Lulu has gone everywhere with Eila- out of state to visit family, around town running errands, to offer comfort when Eila is scared or sad- Lulu is well-loved and well-traveled.  Therefore, in almost every single picture of Eila from babyhood on, Lulu is there, peeking out from Eila’s elbow.  She is like a member of the family- to the point that if I saw Lulu lying somewhere and I needed to move her, I felt almost guilty if I kicked her with my foot instead of gently picking her up and placing her down in a better location.  Sometimes Lulu can almost make you believe, like Sara Crewe did about her doll Emily in A Little Princess, that she is really alive and would move if you left the room.

Due to Lulu’s loved status, she has become quite worn over the years.  As threadbare as The Velveteen Rabbit and cuddled just as much if not more so, her stuffing began to poke through and she was on the verge of unraveling in many areas.  A kind friend at church offered to crochet lovely pastel colored patches to strengthen Lulu’s worn parts and those have so far held true.

Earlier, as Eila was downstairs playing and I was in her room putting some of her things away, I caught sight of Lulu lying there in the middle of the bed and my heart caught in my throat.  I realized that this was becoming the new normal.  Once always cuddled in Eila’s arms, Lulu is left behind on a more frequent basis.  Eila often says now she leaves her to keep her safe and preserve her from getting torn up and I know this is true.  But… I also know that her leaving Lulu behind is inevitable much like how she is slowly easing out of her childhood.  And Lulu is a tangible reminder of that.

I believe she will always have Lulu, whether she be in a box or on a shelf.  I think that Lulu will continue on with her through adolescence, into adulthood, and may make it to be played with by Eila’s children someday.  Even if she doesn’t, the thought of Lulu will, and is likely to spark many, many wonderful memories for my little girl.   As I looked at Lulu laying there, I was acutely aware that in a day or two, Eila will be starting first grade and that my sweet firstborn girl is a going to be a grown woman much sooner than I can imagine.  It was one of those cliche “blink-and-you-miss-it-moments” and it made me hug my daughter a little bit tighter that night as she clutched Lulu in their familiar embrace.

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A Life Scripted to Music

I find extraordinary joy in music.  It is a wonderful gift we were blessed with and it never ceases to amaze me how music can change your mood, bring people together, or serve as a method in which memories are preserved.  I would imagine most, if not all people with access to some form of music outside of what they create themselves,  have been in a situation in which they have heard a song and are instantly reminded of a significant (or not-so-significant) moment in time.  Kenny Chesney sings about this in his song “I Go Back”.  Found within this song are the lyrics “We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives, Takes us to another place and time”.  Songs do stamp our lives.   I was thinking about this the other day and a large number of songs began to flood my mind that I consider significant to certain memories throughout my life.

Those who know me well know that I am terrible with long-term memory- without pictures or music, most of my memories from my middle school years would be a muddled mess, as would some from high school.  And you can forget about elementary school.  At least most of college is still intact because I am not that far away from those years…yet!

So, for my entertainment at least (and to serve as another way to hold on to some memories), here is my list of some of the music that has served as a script for my life.

1. Jesus Loves Me, Away in a Manger, and Zaccheus.  All Bible songs I learned at an early age and sang with my mom as an itty-bitty.  Also included in this time frame would be the Sesame Street theme song and Won’t You Be My Neighbor from Mr. Rogers.  No extraordinarily specific memories related here, more a general remembrance of that time.

2. Debbie Gibson- Shake Your Love.  I had a pocket rocker back in the late ’80s (when they were created) and thought it was the coolest.  That and my Debbie Gibson tape that accompanied it.  I was approximately 8 years old then and was rocking the side ponytail and slap bracelets.

3. Baby Baby by Amy Grant. Middle school.  I remember distinctly two of my best friends at the time making fun of me because of my love of Amy Grant, and especially this song.

4. Right Here Waiting for You by Richard Marx.  Played this in band in middle school.  My dramatic middle school self almost started crying while we played it during a concert due to my unrequited crush on a fellow band member.  That makes me laugh now.

5. En Vogue. Free Your Mind.  I remember two of my guy friends getting into an argument in eighth grade because one felt the other was too judgmental.  This song was brought into the argument and was quoted.

6. Devil Went Down to Georgia.  High school.  Riding with a friend of mine in his pick-up truck with windows down as he blasted this song.

7. Carolina in my Mind.  I went to UNC, and every time I hear this song I have multiple memories of my time there.

8. Ice Ice Baby.  Also in relation to UNC.  Exam time.  And an awesome RA I’m proud to call one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

9. You Are Beautiful (My Sweet Sweet Song)- Third Day- concert with two good friends when in graduate school at the University of South Carolina.  One of my friend was not a Christian but seemed really into this song- whenever I hear it, I think of her and hope she has come to know Jesus as her Savior.

10.  More- Matthew West.  This is the song that was playing on the radio when Will pulled up the driveway to pick me up for our first date.

11. How Do I Love Her- Steven Curtis Chapman.  The song sang during our wedding ceremony.

12.  I Could Not Ask For M0re- Edwin McCain.  The song Will and I danced to at our wedding reception.

13. My Little Girl (Tim McGraw), All-American Girl (Carrie Underwood), and There Goes My Life (Kenny Chesney).  All songs that made me cry when pregnant with Eila.

14.  Heaven is the Face by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I heard this song on the radio while going to a doctor’s appt to check on my yet unborn little guy, Asher.  I remember beginning to cry as I thought of the pain Steven Curtis Chapman and his family must feel after the loss of one of their daughters, and I also cried due to the baby I carried in my womb and the remarkable, precious gift that life is.

15. Baby Baby- Amy Grant.  Yes, it is on here again, because it was the song playing on the radio (the station was playing some older songs) as I made spaghetti while in labor with Asher.  It was ironic and appropriate and even more memorable since I loved the song as a child and Eila loves it as well!

It’s amazing to look back and see how music permeates so many moments in our lives.  There are so many more that came to mind while writing this but this post would be entirely too long (I think it already is!) and some things, I just like to keep for myself.